The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sachin showed again he’s the real master
- Surprising to see New Zealand giving up so easily under the lights

India finally played a perfect game on Saturday. They batted without a fault, the fielding was decent and the bowlers stuck to their job. New Zealand were unlucky to find India in such a mood. It just gives the final on Tuesday that touch of expectation.

Once again, the match underlined how much openers mean in one-day cricket, especially in the sub-continent. Good starts are rarely wasted. Then there were quite a few famished batsmen in the Indian team. Once they had the taste of blood, they bayed for more!

Sachin Tendulkar once again raised his own batting bar magnificently. I hope all those who criticise him for not doing well in crunch games will remember this innings. He came with a simple plan which was to play uninhibited cricket.

He was more aggressive than he had been lately, lifting deliveries over the bowlers’ head, hitting inside-out over extra cover and there were ferocious pulls off anything short. With all those brilliant batsmen making their mark in this tournament, Tendulkar again served notice that he remains master of them all.

Cherish him as long as you can.

Virender Sehwag prospered in his company. There is little doubt that the effect of Tendulkar rubbed off on Sehwag at the other end. He swished outside the off stump at times, but his square cuts disappeared like bullets and he left many in the crowd breathless with his lofted strokes on the onside. He does it with a flick of the wrist rather than straight-batted hits and that makes it more exciting and compelling.

He has struck form at the right time and now has a good chance to gain psychological points over the Australians in the final which would serve him well on a taxing tour Down Under.

Rahul Dravid played an innings which made an utter nonsense of those who still find fault in him as a one-day batsman. He was so orthodox and yet so brilliant it would have pleased the likes of Jayasuriya and Gilchrist no end. It just does not get much better than a half-century from 22 balls. His creativity means the Indian team could maintain a faster tempo throughout their innings rather than worry the lower half is only good enough for grafting.

Both spinners, Murali Kartik and Anil Kumble, gave away under 40 runs from their 10 overs which was excellent but then New Zealanders were already grievously hurt by Ajit Agarkar and Zaheer Khan at the start of the innings.

Kartik makes the most of the opportunities he gets and it shows a tough mind. He has missed out on a berth to Australia and I can only advise him to keep the focus going for he surely has a future.

I was surprised at the ease with which New Zealand gave up under lights. They are not usually the team which gives up without putting up a fight. But they surely looked to get over with it and made the task of the Indians all that simpler.

They had their moments in the tournament, though, and we would never know if choosing to bat first in Faridabad on a dew-moist morning at 9 am or a few dropped catches which helped Australians slip away in Pune broke their will.

Chris Cairns, who missed most of the tournament because of fitness worry, would not look at this game with much affection. He could only put his hands on his waist and watch all those fours and sixes fly around him. New Zealand missed the experience of Fleming for he would surely have liked to disturb the rhythm of the Indian batsmen. The fielders too looked transfixed at times and did not look too comfortable once the lights came on. It surely gets difficult to spot the white ball once it gets dirty and is usually lost in the colourful background of the stands.

It was a one-sided game but there was enough excitement for the spectators in terms of strokeplay. It was champagne batting and will remain long in the memory of those who watched it from close quarters.

I am sure the Indians will not get carried away as they still have Australians waiting for them in the final. One who laughs the last, laughs the loudest. I am sure Sourav Ganguly would look to have the final say at Eden Gardens, come Tuesday. (PTI)

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