A blazing, unbeaten 123 off 96 from Yusuf Pathan took India home by 5 wickets in a thrilling 4th ODI against New Zealand. Pathan who had bode his time and gone at merely a run-a-ball till he reached 50, hammered some thunderous shots to overhaul New Zealand's mammoth total of 315 with 7 balls to spare. It was sheer heartbreak for New Zealand who thought they had the match in the bag after posting such a massive total. But the reality is that they go 0-4 in the series and extend their losing streak to 10 matches.
India's innings got off to a slightly cautious start with Gautam Gambhir and his new opening partner Parthiv Patel, just fending off Kiwi seamers Kyle Mills and Tim Southee. But soon enough Patel hit his stride. He got Mills away for two fours in the 5th over and then in the next, smashed Southee for two more. India were 30/0 after 6 overs. Gambhir and Patel kept the momentum going, picking Mills for 9 runs in the 7th over.
Then in the next over, Gambhir got into the act, smacking McKay for two consecutive boundaries, one a beautiful cover-drive and one down the leg side. Then it was Patel's turn to swing again and he swung at Mills for two more fours in the 9th over. India had raced to 60/0 after 9 overs.
But then against the run of play, Gambhir cut McKay straight to Martin Guptill at point, getting out for a pacy 27 off 24 balls. McKay got a second strike just two balls later, when the new batsman Virat Kohli top-edged a bouncer straight down the throat of Kyle Mills at long leg. India were in some distress at 68/2 with Yuvraj Singh, the new man at the crease. A period of rebuilding was in order.
Yuvraj Singh stuck around just long enough for India to cross the 100-run mark before pulling McCullum into the hands of Jamie How at midwicket. The comeback man - Rohit Sharma - was the next man to take guard with India stuttering on 103/3 in 17.4 overs. Sharma immediately came in for some luck when he had inside-edged a ball off Vettori which was caught by McCullum. The umpire was unmoved and Sharma survived.
But in the next over, McCullum had Patel caught at long-on and India were floundering on 107/4 in 19.3 overs. What followed was a few quiet overs as the new batsmen tried to play themselves in, reaching 130/4 in 25 overs. Sharma and Yusuf Pathan took India to over 150 in the 28th over and were steadily setting a base from which to launch a surge towards the target.
In the 30th over, Pathan and Sharma each took a four off McKay and in the next over, Pathan lofted Vettori for an almighty six over long-on. Sharma followed suit with a four in the 32nd over and India were at a healthy 179/4 at the completion of 32 overs.
But in a couple of overs, New Zealand pegged India back again when Southee got Sharma caught by Vettori at mid-off for 44 off 48 balls. Saurab Tiwary was the last recognised batsmen to walk to the crease with India on a precarious 188/5. Soon after India crossed 200 in the 36th over, rain intervened, the players came off and the covers came on.
About an hour later, the rain subsided and play resumed without any overs being deducted. India still needed 113 runs from the remaining 14 overs. Pathan had immediately shifted gears, reaching his 50 with huge six off Vettori over long on.
In the 39th over, Pathan launched Mills for another maximum. What followed were a few quiet overs. But then in the 43rd over, Pathan really cut loose, hitting three fours and a six off Mills and reducing the equation to 51 runs of 42 balls. Then with 14 runs coming off the next over, India needed 38 off 36. In the meantime, Pathan had notched up his 100 in just 80 balls.
After 46 overs, India were 289/5, just 27 runs shy of victory. Tiwary and Pathan took 8 runs off Vettori's last over, leaving 19 to get from 18 balls. Pathan launched Southee for a six over long on. Then Tiwary got into the act and bludgeoned Southee for two fours to make the equation 4 in 12 balls. The two batsmen scurried a trio of singles before Tiwary finished off the match with a six.
The day began with New Zealand correcting their batting woes at the top and making a positive start. After Brendon McCullum and Martin Guptill got after Nehra and Praveen Kumar with a barrage of fours, Nehra got Guptill out for 30 off 25 balls with the score at 62 in the 9th over. Jamie How, who was demoted to one-down batsman, couldn't do much at his new position and went to Nehra for just 5.
McCullum joined them back in the shed, being sent back by R Ashwin with the score was at a shaky 91/3 in 13.2 overs. But then Ross Taylor and Scott Styris stabilised the innings and played out the bulk of the middle overs before Styris perished to Yusuf Pathan and the Kiwis were 170/4 in 29.4 overs. Franklin got off to a pacy start and kept up the momentum before his support - Taylor - was trapped in front by Ashwin for a watchful 44 and the Kiwis were stuttering at 210 for 5 in 37.1 overs.
But Franklin wouldn't back down and built useful little partnerships with the few remaining batsmen before launching into an all-out assault in the last five overs. He hit Nehra for two sixes and two fours in the final over, taking his side over 300 and to the eventual score of 315/7.