Daniel Vettori with the Man of the Match Award © Getty Images
Daniel Vettori with the Man of the Match Award © Getty Images

Most teams were getting used to the 20-over format by the time ICC World T20 2007 came into being. India and New Zealand overcame hiccups to go reach the next stage. In fact, the second round started with a clash between the teams, at Johannesburg. New Zealand got off to a good start before India pulled them back, before New Zealand barged in again. Then the Indian openers ran amok, sending the New Zealand bowlers and fielders running for cover — before Daniel Vettori stepped in. Abhishek Mukherjee looks back at India’s first T20I defeat, on September 16, 2007, thanks a determined, canny captain who made a rampant batting line-up dance to his tunes.

A mere 19 T20 Internationals had been played before the inaugural global tournament set off in West Indies. India had played a solitary one, albeit on the same ground, and were largely clueless about the format. Indeed, BCCI had supposedly considered not sending a team, and Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, and Rahul Dravid all pulled out of the tournament.

It was a young man’s sport, they said. The team, under MS Dhoni, was a bunch of hard-hitters, enthusiastic bowlers, and excellent fielders.

Rain washed out India’s match against Scotland after the coin had been flipped. India’s second match, against Pakistan, ended in madness, with Misbah-ul-Haq almost clinching victory from the jaws of defeat before squandering the opportunity. India eventually won in the Super Over: and the sight of Robin Uthappa bowling with the cap on, hitting timber, and signing off with a flourishing bow is one of the bizarre yet fond memories of the Indian fan.

New Zealand pushed Kenya aside in their first match. The first four Kenyans all scored ducks, and in a total of 73, there were two partnerships of 36 and 27. New Zealand won in the eighth over. They scored 164 for 7 against Sri Lanka, but Sanath Jayasuriya and gang dished out a defeat to the Kiwis.

Bhajji stops Baz onslaught

Dhoni put New Zealand in, and Dinesh Karthik responded in the second over: RP Singh’s ball was short, Lou Vincent pulled hard, but Karthik dived forward to pull off a spectacular catch.

Then Brendon McCullum took over. He was nowhere close to being the champion he would become in five years’ time; but even at this stage of his career he could be brutal on his day; and this was one of them.

He went after S Sreesanth, taking him for three boundaries in five balls in the third over, all in the arc between mid-off and cover. Peter Fulton, the man of ‘two-metre’ fame, gave the strike back to Baz, who carted RP for fours over point and square-leg off consecutive balls; RP’s next over saw two ferocious cuts that sped to the fence.

Fulton lofted Ajit Agarkar over mid-wicket into the stands, and after 8 overs the score read 65 for 1. Dhoni had to summon Harbhajan Singh, who, despite conceding a six to Ross Taylor, took out Fulton and McCullum in his first two overs. Yuvraj took out Taylor and ran Scott Styris out, reducing New Zealand to 86 for 5. At 112 for 5 after 15 overs, the innings was headed for a 160ish total.

But Jacob Oram hit two sixes in the 16th over, bowled by Yuvraj, before Craig McMillan had a go, getting a six and a four. Karthik dropping Oram off Agarkar at square-leg did not help: the 18th over (bowled by Sreesanth) saw three sixes being hit; and the 19th, by Agarkar, another 21, with Daniel Vettori also joining in the fun.

Some maniacal running resulted in three run outs in the last four balls of the innings, and New Zealand were bowled out for 190. The last 5 overs had gone for 78.

The Sehwag-Gambhir show

Four years before the match, in another major ICC tournament, Virender Sehwag had taken New Wanderers by storm, albeit in a chase that had gone in vain. He had lost Tendulkar in the first over that day. He almost lost Gautam Gambhir in the first, when a scorcher from Shane Bond kept low, beat bat, and almost grazed the stumps.

Bond went for 4. Mark Gillespie, at the other end, conceded 15. Sehwag typically treated spinners with disdain, and did not pay much respect to medium-pacers either: Gillespie was lofted over long-on for six and leg-glanced for four.

Injury kept Bond from becoming the greatest fast bowler of his era, but when he did turn up, he did it in style. Unfortunately, Gambhir, in the form of his life, went after Bond. To be fair, Bond started with a dot-ball and went past Gambhir’s bat in the fifth; the other four went for 6, 4, 4, and 4.

Gillespie came back with a better over, conceding 10, which was certainly an improvement. Vettori decided to slow up things, but for some reason, got Jeetan Patel ahead of himself. This, despite the fact that Sehwag was on strike.

The inevitable happened: the first one was thumped through cover-point; the second rocketed through third-man; two singles later, Sehwag slog-swept one for four; and the last ball was lofted over extra-cover, into the stands.

After 5 overs the score read 67 without loss. Both men hit a boundary each in the next three balls of Oram’s over. India were 76 for no loss in 5.3 overs; they needed a mere 115 from 87 balls with all 10 wickets intact.

It was a non-contest. Then Vettori intervened.

Harry Potter and the Bullring Stranglehold

Sehwag had no business trying to hit that low full-toss from Oram. Low full-tosses are not supposed to be lofted when the match under control. But then, this was Sehwag, and Styris accepted the catch gleefully at mid-wicket.

On came Vettori with his short, rhythmic run-up, popped-out tongue, guile matched by few, and those trademark glasses that earned him the nickname Harry Potter. He still had that boyish look. The beard would come much, much later, perhaps to make him look like a grown-up.

Gambhir pushed the second ball for a single. Most captains would have hesitated to toss the ball up, but Vettori probably based the next ball on sound logic: he needed wickets; at that stage of his career Uthappa often moved as the ball was delivered; and Vettori could make the ball dip late.

As things turned out, the ball dipped, a fidgety Uthappa reached out for the ball, never reached the pitch, and was caught and bowled. A master spinner’s dismissal.

Dhoni walked out. Oram kept the other end tight, conceding a mere 5. His job done, Vettori saved himself for later, recalling Bond, then got Styris to bowl: the equation suddenly read 95 from 60 balls.

Vettori decided it was time for him to return. Gambhir, probably the finest player of spin in his generation, stepped out to the second ball and hit Vettori over long-on for six. The battle was clearly on.

Three balls later, Gambhir stepped out again. Unfortunately, he did so a tad early, and at the last moment Vettori managed to bowl an extremely slow delivery. It pitched short, and Gambhir, caught it two minds, decided to pull: the ball went up, vertically, and landed safely into the big gloves of McCullum.

Meanwhile, Styris bowled a 5-run over at the other end without anyone noticing. 81 from 48.

Yuvraj was in tremendous form. Later in the tournament he would hit six sixes in an over from Stuart Broad, and decimate the Australians with a 30-ball 70 in the semi-final. Here, unfortunately, Styris’ lack of pace stifled him.

Noticing Yuvraj’s obvious discomfort against slow bowling, Vettori brought Patel back. Dhoni gave Patel’s second ball all he had; he got a straight boundary. Yuvraj tried to slog-sweep next ball, but misread the bounce: the ball lobbed up to Taylor at deep square-leg.

Then Karthik hit one off Styris to cover. Dhoni called for a desperate single, Karthik sent him back, and Dhoni fell short. The Styris over went for three boundaries, but the damage had been done.

India needed 59 from 36 balls, and it was clearly New Zealand’s match. All they needed was some accurate bowling. They did not need wickets anymore. All they needed was to smother the batsmen and wait.

With figures of 2-0-11-2 under his belt, Vettori replaced Patel. He was aware that Irfan Pathan could loft the flighted deliveries. The first three balls were ‘darts’ that Irfan could not get under. The next three went for singles. 56 from 30.

On came Patel, with similar intention, but the difference in class showed: Irfan got under the fifth ball and smashed it straight for four; Patel’s line went awry, and Irfan stepped out to make a full-toss out of the sixth. 46 from 24.

But Vettori still had another over. He decided to go for the kill. Karthik managed a single. The next ball was pitched on off-and-middle, and Irfan, expecting turn, tried to steer it. Unfortunately, it was a Daniel Vettori arm-ball that hit off-stump.

He almost had Karthik off the fifth ball, but Fulton dropped him at long-on. The ball also went for four, but it did not matter. Bond did not falter at deep square-leg in the last ball.

India needed 40 from 18 balls. Vettori had bowled out, with 4-0-20-4. Looks were not the only reason behind that nickname.

Agarkar and Harbhajan had both played crucial innings throughout their careers. A few big shots might have done it for India, but both men perished in quick succession. It was left to a bespectacled Sreesanth, who hit three fours, but it all went in vain. India fell 10 runs short.

What followed?

– India won the inaugural edition World T20. New Zealand were beaten in the semi-final by Australia.

– At the time of writing this article, India are yet to beat New Zealand in T20Is.

Brief scores:

New Zealand 190 in 20 overs (Brendon McCullum 45, Craig McMillan 44) beat India 180 for 9 in 20 overs (Gautam Gambhir 51, Virender Sehwag 40; Daniel Vettori 4 for 20) by 10 runs.

Man of the Match: Daniel Vettori.

(Abhishek Mukherjee is the Chief Editor at CricketCountry and CricLife. He blogs here and can be followed on Twitter here.)