Virender Sehwag (above)scored a sparkling ton in the sixth ODI of the series in 2003. But a dramatic collapse saw a thrilling match in which Ashish Nehra hit the winning runs with one wicket to spare © Getty Images
By Bharath Ramaraj
As India embark on another trip to New Zealand — the Land of Long White Cloud, it is time for us to jog our memory back to those nail biting One-Day Internationals (ODIs) of previous tours that had its share of thrills and spills to leave everyone gasping for breath.
New Zealand vs India, 1990 — Basin Reserve, Wellington
India’s match against New Zealand at Basin Reserve, Wellington in the Rothmans Cup Tri-series in 1990 turned out to be a must win game for the visitors. They had earlier lost their matches to both the hosts and Australia.
The rain reduced the game to 49-over-a-side. India won the toss and it was a trifle surprising that they chose to bat. In helpful conditions for bowling, both Manoj Prabhkar and Sanjay Manjrekar went about carefully stitching a crucial 50-wicket stand for the second wicket. When Mohammad Azharuddin got out for an enterprising knock of 29, India were still tottering at 122 for the loss of five wickets.
A 16-year old Sachin Tendulkar with boyish enthusiasm essayed some glorious strokes. But it was Kapil Dev’s pyrotechnics that took India past the score of 200. In fact, before the ODI at Wellington, Kapil was in wretched form during that tour. Danny Morrison, was the wreaker in chief for New Zealand by taking three wickets.
When Mark Greatbatch batting in the middle-order those days and Ken Rutherford made merry against a wayward Indian attack, New Zealand looked on course to win the match with plenty of overs at hand. It was Atul Wasan who dismissed the dangerous Greatbatch. The experienced and wily campaigner, Prabhakar followed up that effort by outfoxing Rutherford. But until the legendary all-rounder Richard Hadlee was at the crease, New Zealand had high hopes of winning the match. It got tougher for him, as Prabhakar continued to snare wickets lower down the order.
New Zealand needed 11 runs off the final over. Hadlee went hammer and tongs at Kapil Dev‘s bowling to take eight off the first three balls he delivered. Just in the nick of time though, Martin Snedden was run out. Kapil put the finishing touches to a humdinger of a contest by redefining perfection in terms of bowling a yorker to deny Hadlee to hit the winning runs. India won the game by a mere one run and the team celebrated like there was no tomorrow.
New Zealand vs India, 1994 — Basin Reserve, Wellington
It turned out to be the only second time the maestro Tendulkar opened the batting for India. Just like at Auckland in the previous game, he came out all guns blazing to score at a shade less than run-a-ball. Navjot Sidhu, batting at No 3 in the match continued the onslaught on New Zealand’s bowlers with his eye-catching innings of 71 off 78 balls. Azharuddin, proved to be the perfect foil for Sidhu in the end overs.
While chasing a sizeable target of 256 posted by India, at 131 for five, the Men in Blue looked set to defeat New Zealand. But Shane Thompson played with bravado and the wicketkeeper-batsman, Adam Parore stood like a bedrock at the other end. It was Anil Kumble who gave India a glimmer of hope by enticing Thompson to dance down the wicket, only to get stumped. He then sent Parore back to the pavilion for a well-made knock of 47. They needed 28 runs off the last two overs which proved to be too much for the lower-order batsmen. For his match turning spell of five for 33, Kumble was declared at the Man of the Match.
New Zealand vs India, 1999 — Napier
In 1999, both teams struggled to carry the momentum into the next game. After winning the first match by a convincing margin, the hosts were defeated by India in a pulsating second ODI. New Zealand had themselves to blame for, as a comedy of errors saw as many as five run outs in their innings. It equaled the previous record for most number of run outs in an ODI.
When Mathew Horne and Bryan Young put on a fine fifty run-partnership for the opening wicket though, things looked very rosy for them, but they couldn’t build on the solid platform erected at top of the order. New Zealand could only muster a total of 213 on the board.
For most part of the game, even with a modest score on the board, New Zealand marshalled wonderfully well by the acting captain Dion Nash seemed like they could pull a rabbit out of the hat, and steal a win from India. It was wicketkeeper Nayan Mongia who came to India’s rescue with a timely innings. Kumble played with a calm head on his shoulders too to help India to eschew a two-wicket win in a roller coaster of a match.
New Zealand vs India, 2003 — Westpace Stadium, Wellington
After an annus horribilis start to the tour on green tops, India desperately needed a win against New Zealand in 2003. It finally happened at Wellington in the fifth ODI. Yet, the game had its fair share of ebbs and flows along the way. After electing to field, India had the perfect start by removing New Zealand’s first three wickets for the cost of only three runs. If it wasn’t for Brendon McCullum and Andre Adams’s handy contributions, New Zealand could have very well been bundled out for less than 100.
For India, Virender Sehwag was in murderous mood, as he raced to 45 off only 40 balls. Yuvraj Singh, played a well-measure innings of 54. Yet, when Kumble comically got out to Andre Adams‘s delivery that bounced twice, India were in dire straits at 116 for seven. It was Zaheer Khan who backed up his three wicket-haul with his innings of 34. The touch of calm countenance shown by the tail-ender took the 20,000 strong crowd by surprise. India finally won the game by two wickets.
New Zealand vs India, 2003 — Eden Park, Auckland
In the sixth ODI of the series between two sides in 2003 at Eden Park, Auckland, India won a key toss and elected to field. On a dicey track Javagal Srinath was all over the New Zealand batting line-up. He bowled his quota 10 overs with full of fire and brimstone. Only Scott Styris and Lou Vincent in the middle order played with guts and gumption to take New Zealand to 199. New Zealand’s key paceman, Shane Bond decided it was time to showcase his skills by wielding a willow. He thwacked three humongous sixes in his innings of 31 off just 15 balls.
India looked set to defeat New Zealand for the first time on the tour when Sehwag went berserk to smash New Zealand pacemen to smithereens. He was helped on the way by a couple of drop catches and missed run outs. However, his dismissal saw a surreal batting collapse with them losing six wickets for just 16 runs. India’s last man Ashish Nehra though, stunned the boisterous crowd by scoring the winning run. Nehra celebrated like he had just kicked the winning penalty in sudden death of a football world cup final to win the game for his country.
(Bharath Ramaraj, an MBA in marketing, eats, drinks and sleeps cricket. He has played at school and college-level, and now channelises his passion for the game by writing about it)