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Williamson inspires New Zealand heist

Wisden India logo Wisden India 20-10-2016

It’s only so long that you can keep a batsman of Kane Williamson’s stature quiet. With a back-to-the-wall 118 off 128 balls, the New Zealand captain made his presence felt in a match where no one else made a half-century. That, along with a never-say-die bowling performance, sealed New Zealand’s thrilling six-run win in the second One-Day International against India at the Feroz Shah Kotla on Thursday (October 20).

Aside from Williamson, who struck 14 fours and one six, and the ever-consistent Tom Latham (46), the rest of New Zealand’s line-up struggled after India won the toss and opted to bowl on a dry surface, making 242 for 9. Jasprit Bumrah and Amit Mishra took three wickets apiece to help India pluck six wickets for just 40 runs in the final ten overs, but India had an even tougher time batting on the pitch. Ajinkya Rahane took 49 balls for his 28 while Mahendra Singh Dhoni took 65 balls for his 39. Kedar Jadhav (41 off 37 balls) looked in good touch but couldn’t carry on as Tim Southee (3 for 52) and Martin Guptill (2 for 6) snapped up key wickets to gut the home side at 183 for 8.

India seemed dead and buried, but Hardik Pandya (36 off 32 balls) and Umesh Yadav (18 not out) played some enterprising and smart cricket, to steal the momentum back from New Zealand with a 49-run stand. It looked like the tail would haunt the visitors again, as was the case all throughout the Test series, but Pandya fell to Trent Boult (2 for 25), with India still 11 runs adrift. Southee then bowled India out for 236, taking Bumrah’s wicket to leave the full house at the Kotla shell-shocked.

Full scorecard: India vs New Zealand, 2nd ODI

India began the chase cautiously, and though Rohit Sharma’s six over long-on off Matt Henry helped the crowd find its voice briefly, he fell for 15. Smartphone torches were instantly turned on to welcome local boy Virat Kohli to the crease, but it proved to be only an 18-minute stay as he was caught down leg off a faint edge off Mitchell Santner.

With New Zealand keeping things tight, Rahane only managed singles and the boundaries began to dry up. He tried to free his arms seeing a short ball from Southee, but Corey Anderson dived forward from fine-leg to grab it. Anderson himself wasn’t too sure whether the catch was clean and there was plenty of deliberation before the third umpire ultimately decided it was. Manish Pandey then needlessly got run out for 19 to leave India at 73 for 4.

The situation was set for the lower middle order to finally show what it could do. Rather than shying away from the challenge, Dhoni and Jadhav embraced it. Jadhav was the chief aggressor, while Dhoni was happy to play the supporting role, rotating the strike. There were moments where Jadhav pushed Dhoni to take an extra run, which put additional pressure on New Zealand.

Photos: Cricketers — Then and now

Cricketers: Then and now

Just as Jadhav seemed well set, he tickled an edge back to the ‘keeper and was out to Henry. The boundaries weren’t easily available and the required rate began inching upwards, but its impact was only felt when Southee pulled off a stunning catch off his bowling — the ball just sticking in his hand — to remove Dhoni.

Williamson then threw a curveball at India, bringing on Guptill. Though Guptill had been practicing his offspin in the nets, it was a gamble. Williamson would surely overlook the four wides though as the over also resulted in Guptill’s third and fourth ODI wickets, those of Axar Patel and Mishra.

Guptill’s wickets would have made up for the fact that he failed with the bat, falling to the second ball of the innings to a probing delivery from Umesh that shaped away and kissed the top of off-stump. But unlike in the first ODI in Dharamsala, the wicket didn’t open the floodgates.

Umesh drifted a bit too far down the legside and Williamson immediately pounced. From there, he seemed to shed the uncertainty that had characterised his batting of late.

With the duo of Latham and Williamson looking steady, Dhoni introduced Bumrah as early as the ninth over and Patel in the 11th. Williamson, in particular, took a liking to Patel’s left-arm spin, tonking him for 15 runs in the 13th over. When Mishra, too, wasn’t able to trouble them, it highlighted that it wasn’t enough to just have a spin-friendly pitch to spook New Zealand.

Williamson and Latham put on a 120-run partnership before the two were finally separated. The breakthrough came from an unlikely source — Jadhav, trapping the latter lbw. The momentum slowly began to shift with that, Bumrah immediately returning to the attack and tightening the noose. The India pacer even managed to floor Williamson with a searing yorker.

But while Williamson managed to come out of that nervy phase unscathed, aside from any minor scrape after falling down, the dot balls weighed on Ross Taylor (21) and he went for a premature sweep against Mishra that found the safe hands of Rohit at deep backward square-leg.

Williamson ensured he didn’t waste time to get to his century, taking 13 balls to move from 88 to 101, and tried to accelerate when Anderson fell for 21. But as he looked to hit a ball from Mishra back over his head, he didn’t get the distance and was caught by Rahane at long-off.

New Zealand were 213 for 5 but with a deep batting line-up, India weren’t going to relax just yet. They continued plugging away, the highlight a tie between Patel’s leaping one-handed catch to dismiss Anton Devcich and a picture-perfect yorker from Bumrah to uproot Southee’s off-stump. But it was New Zealand on the night that walked off the field with the better highlights package.

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