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Tendulkar, Yuvraj at their imperious best
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Christchurch: So distinguished is Sachin Tendulkar’s career that there’s little he hasn’t accomplished in 20 years.

But before Sunday, the great man hadn’t made a One-Day International century in New Zealand, so he remedied the glitch, riding to 163 with the majesty of a knight in full livery, lance at the ready.

Tendulkar’s 43rd century in ODIs was an innings of intelligence, control, skill, and power.

Yet, for all its grandness, 80 minutes of its creation was eclipsed by a singular exhibition of hitting from Yuvraj Singh, which — like a mafia lord worth his pesto — conveyed easy menace.

It was Yuvraj who transformed India’s innings. The left-hander made 87 of the 138-run partnership with Tendulkar, supercharging an innings that appeared as if it might stagnate, so those who followed would have it easy.

With two knocks of such quality — and splendid supplemental contributions from M.S. Dhoni and Suresh Raina — it was slightly surprising that India fell eight short of 400. Still 392 for four in 50 overs is nothing to quibble with, even accounting for the short boundaries here at the AMI Stadium and the modest New Zealand attack, which sorely missed Daniel Vettori (on paternity leave).

Richly talented

As if that weren’t enough, New Zealand threatened to chase it down. Jesse Ryder and Brendon McCullum are richly talented, bruising batsmen, and helped by Indian fielding (and wicket-keeping) that was butter-fingered and heavy-footed all at once, the pair hurt India.

Ryder is rated highly in New Zealand, and on Sunday he showed why. The generously proportioned left-hander hits a hefty ball, characteristic of men with quick, heavy arms. But perhaps the most interesting aspect of his batting is the number of times he hits it right in the middle of the bat. Hot Spots thermal images of Ryder’s bat after contact with ball are always pleasingly symmetrical.

McCullum, who didn’t manage a smile since winning the toss, expelled his frustrations while batting, before, ironically, India’s fielding dented the chase. Ryder’s judgment of a single failed his opening partner, and Ross Taylor dawdled outside his crease during an appeal, while Yuvraj was alive to the possibility of a run out.

Touch unfortunate

Martin Guptill was then a touch unfortunate to be adjudged leg-before. When Ryder found long-off after making a superb 105, the contest appeared to die.

It briefly came to life when Kyle Mills and Tim Southee (who had earlier become the second-most expensive one-day bowler) sparked a rousing fight-back. India appeared to fray — Munaf Patel was removed for bowling two beamers over the batsman’s waistline (the first was marginal), and frantic words were exchanged. But India held it together to take an unassailable 2-0 lead in the series.

Earlier, staggering as it may sound, there were few indications that batsmen would prosper so heartily.

The ball refused to come on, causing Tendulkar to find runs behind square on the leg-side with tucks and nudges. That isn’t to say the 35-year-old eschewed imagination; quite the contrary, for he took deliveries off his stumps and turned them to leg, thinking little of lap and slog-sweeping the seamers.

Yuvraj began with a liquid cover drive, and it actually got more spectacular. India, which at one stage had made 105 for two in 20 overs, forced the batting power play on New Zealand and realised the following runs per over: 13; 13; 12; 17; 14.

All came alike to Yuvraj although Jacob Oram’s niggardly cutters escaped the savagery reserved for the others.

The cleanness of the ball striking was astounding, particularly seeing how the batsmen before him had struggled with timing; perhaps he was helped by the track easing under the sun, but that doesn’t take away from the stillness of head and overall poise when hitting through the ball.

Upping the ante

Tendulkar, who had batted in cruise mode when Yuvraj was blazing away, upped the ante. Wicket-keeper Peter McGlashan, who had done well to hold Yuvraj’s inside-edged catch, then missed stumping Dhoni — it cost New Zealand dear, as Tendulkar and Dhoni attended to the antics.

Despite tiring, Tendulkar hit Grant Elliott’s medium-pace on the up over long-off for six, and it wasn’t until he appeared to strain an abdominal muscle that he relented and left the field. But he still summoned the energy during the break between innings to meet a seven-year-old New Zealand boy named after him by cricket-mad parents.

SCOREBOARD

India: V. Sehwag b Mills 3 (6b); S. Tendulkar retd. hurt 163 (133b, 16x4, 5x6); G. Gambhir c McGlashan b Butler 15 (27b, 1x4); Yuvraj c McGlashan b Elliott 87 (59b, 10x4, 6x6); M.S. Dhoni c McGlashan b Mills 68 (58b, 5x4, 2x6); S. Raina (not out) 38 (18b, 5x6); Y. Pathan (not out) 1 (2b), Extras (lb-5, nb-4, w-8): 17; Total (for four wkts. in 50 overs): 392. Fall of wickets: 1-15 (Sehwag), 2-65 (Gambhir), 3-203 (Yuvraj), 4-382 (Dhoni).

Power Plays: One (overs 1-10): 58/1; Bowling (11-15): 19/1; Batting (23-27): 69/0.

New Zealand bowling: Mills 10-0- 58-2, Southee 10-0-105-0, Butler 5-0- 37-1, Oram 8-1-34-0, J. Patel 5-0- 37-0, Ryder 5-0-56-0, Elliott 7-0-60-1.

New Zealand: J. Ryder c Zaheer b Harbhajan 105 (80b, 12x4, 4x6); B. McCullum (run out) 71 (68b, 6x4, 3x6); R. Taylor (run out) 7 (6b, 1x4); M. Guptill lbw b Yuvraj 1 (4b); G. Elliott b Zaheer 18 (24b, 1x4); J. Oram b Harbhajan 7 (11b); P. McGlashan b Zaheer 7 (9b); I. Butler b Yuvraj 24 (19b, 1x4, 1x6); K. Mills c Zaheer b Y. Pathan 54 (32b, 6x4, 3x6); T. Southee c & b Praveen 32 (20b, 3x4, 2x6); J. Patel (not out) 0 (0b), Extras (lb-2, nb-2, w-4): 8; Total (in 45.1 overs): 334.

Fall of wickets: 1-166 (McCullum), 2-179 (Taylor), 3-182 (Guptill), 4-188 (Ryder), 5-203 (Oram), 6-217 (Elliott), 7-218 (McGlashan), 8-251 (Butler), 9- 334 (Mills).

Power Plays: One (overs 1-10): 67/0; Bowling (11-15): 39/0; Batting (33-37): 23/2.

India bowling: Zaheer 9-0-65-2, Praveen 8.1-0-60-1, Munaf 7.2-0-79-0, Yuvraj 10-0-71-2, Harbhajan 10-0-60-2, Y. Pathan 0.4-0-1-1.

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