Muscat Daily - - FRONT PAGE -

Auckland, New Zealand -

Navdeep Saini! All the hype around him was that he could bowl fast. Only here he was star­ing down a bouncer with a glint in his eye and dis­patch­ing it over point for six. Not long af­ter that, he hit boss mode, get­ting down on one knee and scoop­ing the seam bowlers for four.

Chas­ing 274, In­dia were down and out at 153 for seven in the 32nd over. And then their No 9 had an iden­tity cri­sis. Dude bat­ted like he was ruddy Kevin Pi­etersen, mak­ing four times the runs his List A av­er­age of 12 sug­gests. It's as if Eden Park just wouldn't al­low for a dead ODI to take place within its bor­ders

There were so many in­stances of play­ers ris­ing above the ruin to keep this game alive. Ross Taylor's freak­ish, un­beaten 73 fol­lowed on from a col­lapse of 55 for seven.

Ravin­dra Jadeja bat­tled like he had been to the fu­ture and seen that he would score a half-cen­tury him­self. Noth­ing he did, or said, or pre­sented gave even the slight­est hint that he ever thought a match-win­ning hand was be­yond him. This af­ter a ten-over spell where he gave away only three bound­aries.

New Zealand's ninth-wicket part­ner­ship scared up 76 runs in 51 balls. In­dia's eighth wick­et­part­ner­ship - at the height of an im­pos­si­ble chase - made 76 off 86.

Sheesh! Eden Park just can­not deal with even the idea of a bor­ing match. This one ended with New Zealand win­ning by the skin of their teeth and tak­ing the series 2-0.

The ten­sion was un­be­liev­able. And rather more ap­par­ent on the hosts, who may well have felt those twitches that a su­per over brings. They needed three wick­ets when In­dia needed 121 off 113 balls. Plenty of time. Just stick to the plan.

Jadeja kept pinch­ing sin­gles. Saini twisted his body into ev­ery which way to pro­tect his stumps. The equa­tion re­duced to 85 off 60.

Jadeja was do­ing the MS Dhoni thing, bid­ing his time and min­ing twos from within the 30-yard cir­cle. He didn't seem to mind that the re­quired rate was at 9.7 and the rea­son for that be­came im­me­di­ately ap­par­ent when Saini tonked Colin de Grand­homme for three fours in the 44th over, and then sheep­ishly gig­gling when his part­ner would come up to punch gloves.

But then, just as it looked like the most im­prob­a­ble fin­ish was on the cards - Saini scor­ing a fifty and si­mul­ta­ne­ously un­lock­ing the se­cret to hu­man flight - a rookie player comes up and knocks his stumps to the ground. Eden Park, man. It re­ally can't help flip­ping a script.

That Kyle Jamieson strike paved the way to vic­tory, and ce­mented his can­di­dacy for Man of the Match award. Though hon­estly, his dis­missal of Prithvi Shaw should have sealed it, an in­com­ing de­liv­ery the envy of any bowler that stormed through the bats­man's de­fences to wreck his stumps.

Tim Southee clean bowled Vi­rat Kohli at the start of the chase to pro­vide his team the foothold they needed to win the game.

How­ever well In­dia fought af­ter that - and they did, with Shreyas Iyer scor­ing a fifty as well, that wicket, much as it did in the World Cup semi­fi­nal was cru­cial.

It meant New Zealand don't have to look back so wist­fully at their own bat­ting col­lapse. Los­ing 55 for seven had ripped away much of the ten­sion from a game that was build­ing up beau­ti­fully.

Taylor killed all pos­si­bil­ity of a dull game by play­ing an absolute blin­der. His ninth-wicket part­ner­ship with Jamieson - who scored a cen­tury while fac­ing James Anderson and Stu­art Broad in a tour game in 2018 - was en­tirely ridicu­lous.

It came af­ter New Zealand had lurched from 142 for one to 197 for eight thanks to the pres­sure In­dia ex­erted through the mid­dle overs. New Zealand stopped and stum­bled and crashed and burned to 32 for four in that phase.

Taylor was 29 off 47 when the eighth wicket fell and his side didn't look like it would last the re­main­ing nine overs. He had al­ready been part of two run-outs that stole all the mo­men­tum away from the in­nings, es­pe­cially the one that cost Martin Gup­till his wicket when he looked well set on 79.

But then that magic that sur­rounds this ground, which is home to the Grant El­liot mir­a­cle, the Mar­cus Stoi­nis heart­break and the Kane Wil­liamson fist pump, be­gan to show it­self.

Taylor was com­pletely in­fused with it. It's much more com­pelling to imag­ine an oth­er­worldly force en­abling Taylor to re­verse-scoop the best fast bowler in the world nearly all the way for six, with the back of his bat. Jasprit Bum­rah does not get treated like this. By any­one. Heck, even the new kid Jamieson was whack­ing fours off him at the death.

Eden Park just can­not deal with even the idea of a bor­ing cricket match.


New Zealand play­ers cel­e­brate af­ter win­ning the sec­ond ODI against In­dia in Auckland

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