| Man-of-the-Match Virender Sehwag pulls one to the fence during his innings of 112 at Eden Park Saturday. (Reuters)
Auckland, Jan. 11 (PTI): India very nearly wasted a century effort by Virender Sehwag before scampering to a narrow one-wicket victory against New Zealand in a nerve-wracking sixth one-day International here on Saturday.
Sehwag cracked 112, his second century of the series, to bring India within 17 runs of New Zealand’s total of 199 for nine. The visitors then lost six wickets for 15 runs to make a complete mess of the easy situation.
In a dramatic finish, Ashish Nehra struck across the leg rope over the field for a ‘boundary’ and also he and Srinath ran a single to the victory. The umpire did not signal for a boundary, instead he credited the batsman with the single he ran.
That, off the penultimate ball of the match, brought India their second successive victory of the seven-match series. India, thus, finished on 200 for nine.
It was a typical example of the Indian batsmen breaking down in a pressure situation after Sehwag was dismissed with the total on 182 in the 42nd over. The Indians had seven overs to get 18 runs with six wickets in hand.
But Yuvraj Singh (8), Mohammad Kaif (7), Sanjay Bangar (1), Ajit Agarkar (0) and Zaheer Khan (1) could not keep their cool and got out one after another to create a dramatic situation when there was none.
The nervousness of the Indians was best exemplified in the run outs of Agarkar and Zaheer, who reached the other end without even looking at their partners. It came down to four runs needed from the last over.
The usually cool Kaif and Zaheer were dismissed before Nehra got that winning run to bring relief.
The visitors began with the best opening performance of the series — with Sehwag putting up 70 runs for the first wicket with captain Sourav Ganguly and 72 for the second with Rahul Dravid.
Dravid was celebrating his 30th birthday Saturday but Lady Luck decided to shower the gifts on Sehwag — the dashing opener was dropped twice and escaped easy run out chances on a few occasions. In between, a few of his shots landed between fielders.
But he used his luck to maximum advantage and played a belligerent knock that included 11 fours and three sixes.
Sourav looked comfortable at the crease for the first time on the tour, before edging an Adams delivery to wicketkeeper Brendon McCullum after making 23 with four fours. His five other innings have produced just 20 runs.
Dravid played a typical knock of 21 before falling leg before wicket to Scott Styris in the 33rd over. Sachin Tendulkar failed yet again, edging a Daryl Tuffey delivery to McCullum after scoring just one run from 15 balls.
But Sehwag continued to score with flourish and reached his century with a four off Kyle Mills. He then lofted a slower delivery from Mills straight into the stands for his third six.
His first two sixes had come off Styris and Tuffey, respectively.
New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming, who had dropped Sehwag earlier, made amends when he took an outside edge of the batsman in the 42nd over.
Earlier, New Zealand were helped by an 80-run fifth wicket partnership between Styris and Lou Vincent and a cameo from Shane Bond in the final overs to reach a near-200 total.
Put in to bat on a damp pitch, the Black Caps had crashed to 50 for four in the 19th over before Styris and Vincent came up with a fine recovery act.
They braved the Indian attack for 20 overs to take the score to 130 before Sourav broke the partnership by having Styris caught by Bangar.
Styris made 42 with seven fours while Vincent remained unbeaten on 53 with three fours and a six.
The dismissal of Styris triggered a collapse which saw New Zealand lose four wickets for 17 before Vincent and Bond hammered 52 runs from the last 21 balls to take India completely by surprise.