| Andre Adams celebrates after trapping Jawagal Srinath leg-before in Hamilton on Tuesday. Adams finished with four for 21. (AFP)
Hamilton: India’s cricketers Tuesday ended a disastrous tour of New Zealand, easily losing the seventh and final one-dayer after another insipid batting display which would have further dented their confidence prior to the World Cup.
Put in to bat first on a seamer-friendly wicket, the Indians struggled to reach the three-figure mark to be all out for 122, failing again to last their quota of 50 overs. New Zealanders achieved their target after initial hiccups to win the match by six wickets and the series 5-2.
After registering their lone victories of the tour in the last two matches while chasing a target, it was back to square one for the Indians with the batsmen floundering once again when asked to bat first on a wicket that belied expectations and offered generous support to the seamers.
The top six batsmen were back in the pavilion with just 44 runs on the board and it required gutsy performances from Yuvraj Singh and Anil Kumble to carry the team past the three-figure mark. Yuvraj top-scored with 33, while kumble made 21, putting on a 49-run partnership for the seventh wicket that saved the tourists some blushes in an otherwise disappointing outing.
New Zealand too lost a few early wickets and were 32 for three at one stage, but captain Stephen Fleming struck timely form to guide his side to the target in just 28.4 overs. Fleming remained unbeaten on an attractive 60.
This was India’s seventh defeat in nine matches, including the two Tests, on the tour, in probably the worst preparation for next month’s World Cup in South Africa.
Jawagal Srinath, who has been outstanding in the one-day series claiming 18 wickets from seven matches, claimed two scalps Tuesday, but let go the opportunity of completing 300 wickets in one-day Internationals. He dropped an easy return catch from Scott Styris which would have made him only the fifth bowler in history in the 300-club.
The first three Indian wickets were gone for just 17 runs. Virender Sehwag, centurion in the last match, and Sachin Tendulkar were dismissed cheaply for four and one, respectively, before Dinesh Mongia earned a first ball duck. Sehwag attempted a cut against a rising delivery from Kyle Mills and edged a catch to wicketkeeper Brendon McCullum.
Daryl Tuffey then gave India a double blow in his fourth over when he sent back Sachin and Mongia off successive deliveries, both batsmen being caught by Fleming at slips.
This was the third failure in a row for Sachin who had missed the first four one-dayers due to injury.
Mongia, who was included in India’s World Cup squad in place of V. V. S. Laxman, also failed to make any impression in the three matches he played after joining the team late on this tour.
Captain Sourav Ganguly and his deputy Rahul Dravid tried a recovery exercise but could not carry on for long. Both looked comfortable against the pace but were out within four balls of each other at the total of 44 to leave India in a hopeless position.
And when Mohammed Kaif was dismissed for a duck at the same total, India were staring at the possibility of being shot out for less than their lowest score of 108 against New Zealand.
However, Kumble came up with a stubborn resistance in company of Yuvraj, who has had a few decent scores in this series. The two slowly took the score to 93 in the 34th over before Yuvraj fell to Styris.
Kumble continued his defiance a little longer and added 19 valuable runs for the ninth wicket with Srinath who contributed 15 before being the last man out.
But a total of 122 was hardly reassuring, even though Srinath and Zaheer Khan once again started in a fiery fashion. Srinath got rid of opener Matthew Sinclair and Chris Cairns with sharply incoming deliveries that went between bat and pads to crash onto the stumps. Cairns, who returned to international cricket after a long injury lay-off in the fifth one-dayer at Wellington, was dismissed by Srinath for the third time in a row, bowled between bat and pads on each occasion.
In between Srinath’s two successes, Zaheer trapped McCullum, promoted in the order, leg before, and at 32 for three, India were hoping to stage a fightback.
However, Fleming, who like his Indian counterpart had struggled for most part of the series, doggedly guarded his wicket and found a similar determined partner in Styris who made full use of the reprieve earned from Srinath.
The two took the score past 100 in the 25th over, leaving victory only a formality before Kumble earned his 303rd wicket. He clean bowled Styris with a delivery that kept low and crashed into the stumps.
A 10-day break
The defeat left India with a lot to ponder over during their two-week break ahead of the World Cup which starts in South Africa on February 8.
BCCI secretary Karunakaran Nair said in New Delhi, that the team is expected to return home Friday and “will be rested for about 10 days till they leave by month end,” the official said. “There will be no (training) camp.”