World Cup warm-up: India stroll to big win against New Zealand

By Anand Philar, IANS
Wednesday, February 16, 2011

CHENNAI - Skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni ran into top form before spinners sliced open New Zealand to hand India a massive 117-run win in a warm-up game ahead of the cricket World Cup here Wednesday.

Dhoni slammed an unbeaten 108 off 64 balls as India piled up a massive 360 for five in their quota of 50 overs before the spinners, continuing their impressive performance, bowled New Zealand out for 243 in 43.1 overs.

The Black Caps must be feeling the chills at the debacle, not so much by the margin but at their abject surrender. It was hardly the sort of preparations New Zealand would have hoped for ahead of their opening World Cup group fixture against Kenya here Sunday.

In contrast, the Indians would be heading ti Dhaka to play Bangladesh Saturday in a happier frame of mind, having outplayed Australia in their previous warm-up fixture at Bangalore Sunday.

Dhoni must be a pleased man as the Indian middle order came good to shred the Kiwi bowling attack with the skipper himself leading the way with his quick-fire century backed by a solid 89 by Gautam Gambhir, Virat Kholis stroke-filled 59 and a 28-ball 50 by Suresh Raina.

With runs on board, Dhoni then luxuriated in his spin options while using the seamers in short bursts and yet, never really losing grip on the proceedings.

On the other hand, the Kiwi bowlers hardly made an impact while they were also let down to an extent by loose fielding that helped the Indian batsmen, notably Gambhir who was dropped when on 14.

First up though, the Kiwis looked to be in the fight when they dismissed openers Virender Sehwag (23) and Sachin Tendulkar (17) by the 10th over, but three big partnerships thereafter effectively turned the game in Indias favour.

Gambhir put on 106 runs for the third wicket with Kohli and another 68 for the fourth with Dhoni, who then took over for a rollicking 124-run partnership with Raina in less than 10 overs to carry India past the 350-mark.

It was Dhoni and Raina who provided the acceleration and flourish to the Indian innings, the two batting in contrast to the serene progress earlier in the afternoon.

The New Zealand bowlers, after their initial enthusiasm, all but gave up, allowing the Indian batsmen to go about their task with abandon.

The Black Caps’ chase turned out to be a disaster after the early flourish of openers Brendon McCullum (58) and Martin Guptill (38) as the latter just could not handle the guile, variation and persistence of the Indian spinners.

The rot set in when Guptill was surprised by a Ravichandran Ashwin delivery that kicked from a length, took the edge of the bat and landed into Dhonis gloves. A little later, Kohli effected a run out to send back McCullum to put India on top.

From there on, the New Zealand’ fortunes floundered as they lost wickets at regular intervals, caught as they were in a web spun more by the demons in their minds rather than the pitch.

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