Monday 27 January 2014 

Match Point: A Tie In Auckland

Mahendra Singh Dhoni
Mahendra Singh Dhoni formed a key partnership with Ravichandran Ashwin
© REUTERS / Action Images
 

India are yet to win on this tour of New Zealand, but they managed not to lose a third straight match.

A stunning half-century from Ravindra Jadeja, matched equally by a maiden One-Day International fifty from Ravichandran Ashwin helped the India (314 for nine) play out a scintillating tie with the Black Caps (314 all out) after 100 overs.

Contest of the Day

At one stage, India were reeling at 146 for five, after a super opening show from Rohit Sharma. The opener hit four sixes in the opening stages of the chase and it seemed like the stage was set for the Indian batting prowess to showcase itself.

Yet they had no reply to Corey Anderson and Hamish Bennett after punishing the opening spells.

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Once India were down and out, almost, Ashwin was promoted to number seven. At that stage, skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni was playing the lone ranger with a fighting half-century and more than ever, his team needed him to be there at the end.

It didn’t happen. In walked Jadeja, with his usual spunk, and regaled the non-resident Indian masses at Eden Park, who for one night forgot that they were living and earning their breads in New Zealand.

It was an audacious partnership, resulting in 85 runs from just 55 balls. Besting all previous partnerships between better batsmen up the order, the duo scored at 9.27 runs per over for just under 10 overs and changed the complexion of the game.

Jadeja can be belligerent and he was so, on the night, but that aspect came to the fore only when he was on his own.

Ashwin, however, shocked many with that mighty six off Nathan McCullum in the 45th over, four balls before he eventually got out. He had hit eight fours prior to that. Indeed, it is very possible that the Black Caps had not anticipated this backlash from the lower middle-order and were caught out.

Player of the Day

Corey Anderson was the outstanding cricketer in the first two matches, and rightly so. He could have been again in this ODI at Auckland, had he scored more than eight runs.

His cheap dismissal was the sole reason why New Zealand did not end up with 350-plus, and settled for 314 in the end. And it was his maiden five-wicket haul that provided skipper Brendon McCullum some relief just when he seemed to be running out of options.

It seems an all-rounder alone can steal another’s thunder, and Jadeja may not be the perfect Indian answer to Anderson, but he is the closest thing Dhoni has got. For ages now, the Indian skipper has expressed his wish for a fast-bowling all-rounder but Jadeja gives him an option very few Indian captains possessed.

Remaining Matches

28th January: 4th ODI, Hamilton
31st January: 5th ODI, Wellington

India are able to play with five bowlers in ODIs, and even Sourav Ganguly had to make a compromise on that, such is the role Jadeja plays. He comes on first change, with his natural ability to spin the ball away from right-handers proving to be a boon.

The Indian spinners are struggling with the new ODI fielding rules and as such this experience of playing abroad for a whole year ahead of the 2015 ODI World Cup should be a valuable lesson for Jadeja. But this is not about his bowling.

The lad from Saurashtra is yet to become the batsman he is known to be in the domestic circuits, and this is regarding both formats. The limited-overs games allow him to be more expressive, of course, just as they do with most other batsmen. Even so, he never gets an opportunity to showcase what he is possibly capable of. The ODIs in South Africa, for example, were over before he could even walk in such was his team’s plight.

It was different on this night in Auckland. There were enough overs left and the Dhoni-Ashwin partnership had laid a platform, with a high asking rate compensated by the very small ground.

Jadeja can swing his bat on varied occasions, and the third ODI at Eden Park will go down in history as one of those. Don’t be surprised, if there are more of these coming in the near future, for India have unearthed a new finisher.

Match Point

In a close game of such proportion, there are always quite a few and they tend to come in towards the end, when very few cricketers are able to hold on to their nerves.

New Zealand’s misery lies in the fact that it was their players who failed to do so. To say there was only one in this pulsating tie would be a lie, and Jadeja was dropped twice in the finishing stages of the game.

Yet, it just so happens, there was indeed that one point where the Kiwis threw it all away.

In the 43rd over, Nathan McCullum bowled his fourth delivery down the leg side, as Ashwin danced down the track and missed the line completely, but keeper Luke Ronchi missed the stumping. This partnership lasted another 12 balls, wherein 15 runs were scored.

A ball earlier, third of that very same over, McCullum had bowled right in Jadeja’s arc who failed to latch onto it and holed out to long on, where Tim Southee couldn’t finish the job despite getting to the ball in time.

Thereafter Jadeja alone added 42 more runs, off just 26 balls, hitting three more fours and an equal number of sixes. Enough said.

 © Cricket World 2014

 
Fixtures & Results

19th January: 1st ODI, McLean Park, Napier
NZL 292-7 beat IND 268 by 24 runs
22nd January: 2nd ODI, Seddon Park, Hamilton
NZL 271-7 beat IND 277-9 by 15 runs (D/L)
28th January: 4th ODI, Seddon Park, Hamilton
NZL 280-3 beat IND 278-5 by 7 wickets
6th-10th February: 1st Test, Eden Park, Auckland
NZL 503 & 105 beat IND 202 & 366 by 40 runs
14th-18th February: 2nd Test, The Basin Reserve, Wellington
NZL 192 & 680-8d. drew with IND 438 & 166-3