Sachin Tendulkar would not have asked for a more glittering gift from his men for the year 1999. After winning the three-Test Series 1-0 against New Zealand, the home team clinched the five-match ODI Series 3-2 on Wednesday in New Delhi. The pitch at the Kotla stadium offered appreciable assistance to the bowlers on Wednesday.
The India bowlers exploited the conditions judiciously and restricted New Zealand to 179 for 9 in 50 overs and India led by the classy left-hander Sourav Ganguly got home by the 44th over losing three wickets. There was a sudden development in the India camp on the eve of this fifth and final match in the ODI Series. Ajay Jadeja the leader of India's middle-order batting withdrew due to injury.
Javagal Srinath the speedster who was rested after the second game of this Series was summoned to join the team. So, in the playing eleven, Srinath came in place of Ajit Agarkar and Debang Gandhi got Jadeja's slot. New Zealand won the toss and chose to bat. Perhaps India's poor reputation as "chasers" seemed to have prompted Stephen Fleming to take that decision.
But he was in for a disappointment as the India bowlers, intelligently handled by skipper Sachin Tendulkar, kept the rival batsmen under leash almost throughout. As was seen in the previous match at Guwahati, New Zealand was off to a poor start. It lost Nathan Astle, and Craig Spearman for 23 runs and skipper Fleming himself was back in the pavilion in the 22nd over (58 for three). The stouthearted Christ Cairns and Roger Twose, the heroes of the Guwahati match, waged a spirited battle and added 66 runs for the fourth wicket. The overall run rate was below four runs per over. Hence when the two batsmen tried to accelerate the run rate they fell.
Cairns (41 off 57balls) left at 124 (35.5 overs) and Twose (47 off 94) at 152 (44.3). With just 5.2 overs left, the India bowlers applied more pressure and New Zealand could not do anything exceptional during the end-overs. At the lunch-break, it looked an ideal situation for India to clinch this match for the Series and it turned out to be so.
Tendulkar sent Debang Gandhi to open the innings with Ganguly. The Bengal batsman who had made his debut this season the Test Series against the Kiwis, made a memorable debut in the ODI putting on 117 runs in 26.4 overs with Ganguly.
Gandhi's contribution was only 30 off 67 balls but then he lent the needed credibility to the opening stand. For Ganguly was on a song right from the start and Gandhi had to play the second role. He did that in a commendable fashion. Ganguly who looked all set to make his second century of this ODI Series, was out stumped by Adam Parore off left-arm spinner Daniel Vettori. His 86 came off 110 balls and contained 12 fours and one six. Four balls later Vettori consumed Tendulkar too to make it 156 for three by the 34th over. But then there was no need for the home team to get panicky. Rahul Dravid and Vijay Bharadwaj took India to victory by the last ball of the 44th over.