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A skin-of-the-teeth win that almost never was
Krishnamachari Srikkanth - 13 January 2003

Virender Sehwag
© Reuters
India may have won the sixth one-dayer at Auckland, but the manner in which they went about it left much to be desired, and considering that Virender Sehwag hit a magnificent - if chancy - century at the top of the order, it must have taken a lot of hard work from the middle order to make the task as difficult for itself as it proved to be.

Thankfully for the tourists, though, India were not faced with too high a target to scale; a similar collapse by England earlier in the day, against Australia's 271, saw them lose the match by an agonisingly close margin, and compared to that, India really had no excuses to mess up their chase at Auckland.

In the end, it was Sehwag's knock that made the difference; he may have gotten a few reprieves, but he refused to be cowed down, taking the attack right into the Kiwi camp and playing some outrageously good shots along the way. His flat sixes over extra cover stand out, simply for the sheer power behind the stroke. Once Sehwag departed, however, India's middle-order caved to a series of injudicious strokes against bowling that was, at best, tight.

The lower middle-order was, to say the least, suicidal. When the situation called for just singles and calm minds, run-outs and poor shots proliferated, and combined with New Zealand's sharp fielding, the pressure built rapidly. Had the hosts, in fact, had just 10 runs more in the bank, India may well have lost the match.

Javagal Srinath
© Reuters
In the last two matches, India's bowlers have had more batting to do than they would have bargained for. That is a pity, for they have been putting in some good performances with the ball. Javagal Srinath today bowled outstandingly, picking up three wickets and conceding only 13 runs in his 10 overs. Admittedly the bowlers let the game slip after having New Zealand very much by the throat, and the last wicket should not have added nearly as many runs as they did, but compared to the later batting display, one can hardly fault the bowlers too much.

One area of worry is that the bowlers seem to be consistently taking more time to send down their quota, and in close games like this one, an over lost may make a big difference. That is an example of the way India give their opponents opportunities to get back into the game.

But the game is now over and done with. We may have scraped through to a win where we should have cantered in with five overs and five wickets to spare, but the bottom-line still records a win, and India must buck up, derive as much confidence as possible from the game, and move on to the final one-dayer.

© CricInfo

Other Articles by Krish Srikkanth