The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Indian pace attack as potent as any
- New Zealand need better balance in bowling to restrict Tendulkar & Co.

The confidence and team spirit evident in the Indian team has grown out of the belief that they can fight fire with fire under any conditions. No longer do they require pitches suitable for spinners to upset top teams on foreign soil. Possibly for the first time in their history, India have a pace attack that can match any going around for pace and versatility.

I believe the combination of batting and bowling depth, allied with new-found agility in the field and the spirit, will carry India to victory over New Zealand on Friday.

New Zealand will be shattered by their loss to Australia. Having reduced the champions to 84 for seven after asking them to bat first on a slow wicket containing moisture, New Zealand should have won.

The lack of a potent pace partner to help Shane Bond finish the lower-order caused the downfall of Stephen Fleming and his men. Fleming made all the right moves. He had to bowl Bond out because he had the chance to finish off the Australians. Likewise, he had to keep Daniel Vettori going at the other end as he was helping Bond build the pressure. There was little else he could have done.

This is the worrying thing for New Zealand for the match with India. It is a must-win game for them and the pressure will be immense.

Apart from Bond and Vettori, the rest of the attack lacked control and ideas. Andre Adams has bowled well under similar conditions, but he made little impact here apart from a doodle-bug that gave Bichel a solid blow to the head.

Chris Harris was his usual frugal self. The slow wicket is his preferred surface so he must have felt at home, but he could not make a breakthrough for his captain.

Fleming shuffled the deck chairs but to no avail. He would like a better balance in his attack against India or his team could be chasing a much larger total in Centurion Friday.

In many ways, Bondís good form worked against the New Zealand captain on this occasion. He will need to get wickets from both ends if he is to stop the rampant Tendulkar & Co.

On the other hand, Sourav Ganguly is enjoying a rare embarrassment of riches. His pace attack is really starting to come together. India have never had such a potent three-pronged pace attack before.

Jawagal Srinath is the elder statesman who is confirming what we have recognised for quite some time. He is an excellent bowler and combines good pace with intelligent strategy.

Ganguly will be thankful to have him back because he is the ingredient that has been missing in recent times. No doubt the captain will hope that this series may inspire the good-natured paceman to extend his career.

Srinath has never had such support in the pace bowling ranks before. Zaheer Khan and Ashish Nehra are growing in stature every day. The two left-handers have combined well with Srinath, offering variation to his incisive away-swing to the right-handed batsmen. Khan is not as quick as Nehra, but he does hit the bat hard and bowls a probing line and length as well. This variation in the new ball attack has worked well for India.

Nehra is the rising star. He is set to take over from Srinath as the leader of the attack for the next generation, much like Srinath took over from the redoubtable Kapil Dev.

The baton is in good hands. The young man has showed he has pace and the ability to swing the ball back into the right-handed batsman. This is a proven winning formula.

History will show that bowlers with this one-two combination can fight in the heavyweight division and take their share of the spoils. I will watch Nehraís development with interest.

There is no doubt that Tendulkar and the Indian batting line-up has a big part to play in the remainder of the World Cup. They will need to set targets and chase targets against some quality opposition, but it will be their bowling attack that will be responsible if India are to take the Cup away from the Australians.

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