Fast bowler Shane Bond destroyed the Indian top order and then dashed hopes of a late fight as India lost to New Zealand by 51 runs in the second game of the Zimbabwe tri-series, at Queens Sports Club in Bulawayo on Friday.
Chasing a target of 216, India, 44 for 8 at one stage, were all out for 164.
Bond gunned down six batsmen with express pace and swing, putting India out of the game inside the first 15 overs. Needless to say, he was the undisputable man-of-the-match.
Jai Prakash Yadav (69) and Irfan Pathan (50) staged a late fightback with a 118-run ninth-wicket partnership that, in the end, proved to be India's saving grace.
New Zealand thus registered their second win in as many matches in the triangular tournament.
Earlier, after winning the toss and electing to bat, New Zealand were rescued by their middle-order.
Indian seamers Irfan Pathan and Ashish Nehra came up withÂ an outstanding show of swing bowling to cut the New Zealand batsmen down to size and reduce the side to 36 for 5. But the middle and late middle order, led by a run-a-ball 54 from Craig McMillan, saw the Kiwis finish on 215 from 43.1 overs.
New Zealand innings:
New Zealand went into the second match of the tri-series on a high, having notched 397 for 5 in 44 overs in the previous game against Zimbabwe. The Kiwis had then narrowly missed creating a world record for the highest score in One-Day Internationals.
The turn of events could not be more dramatic, as only two days later and one hour into the game against India the scorers were flashing lowest scores by New Zealand in ODIs.
Electing to bat, the Kiwis were reduced to 37 for five in 13 overs, with both their openers who had led the blitz against Zimbabwe, back in the pavilion before the first five overs.
The Indian left-arm pace duo of Irfan Pathan and Ashish Nehra swung the ball prodigiously, making most of the morning conditions.
Pathan struck in his second over when he trapped Lou Vincent lbw for four. Pitching on off-stump, the ball swung back, hitting the batsman in front of the wicket. (1-6)
Vincent had hit 172 runs off 120 balls on Wednesday, to obliterate Glenn Turner's record of 171, the highest individual score for New Zealand.
Nehra, bowling with the new ball, looked even more dangerous than he had on coming first change in the Sri Lanka tri-series. He snipped the next two wickets -- that of captain Stephen Fleming and right-hander Nathan Astle.
The ball moved late away from Fleming, who nicked it to wicketkeeper Mahendra Singh Dhoni. (2-10).
Astle, returning to the side after missing the first game due to a finger injury, then fell lbw to another in-dipper from Nehra. (13-3).
Nehra's finished his first spell at two for six runs in six overs.
Half the Kiwi side was down after Pathan claimed the wickets of Scott Styris and Hamish Marshall in successive overs.
Styris, looking to weave out his way with some attacking shots, tried to hit Pathan over mid-on, but Agarakar took a superb catch, running backwards. (4-36) Marshall was hit right in front of middle-stump by Pathan. (5-36)
New Zealand would have been in further trouble had umpire Russell Tiffin upheld Pathan's lbw appeal against Craig McMillan in the same over. The ball pitched on middle and off and looked like crashing into the off-stump but Tiffin ruled in favour of the batsman.
Pathan was given an extended spell of eight overs, from which he claimed three wickets for 34 runs.
But India lost the plot a bit once the new-ball bowlers were removed from the attack. Agarkar and J P Yadav, playing his first ODI since November 2002, failed to maintain the pressure. Yadav bowled wicket to wicket, but wasn't penetrative enough, and Agarkar bowled short and wide in the first spell.
McMillan and Jacob Oram made the most of the largesse to build a sixth-wicket stand of 91 runs from 16.3 overs. With the early moisture gone, the wicket also eased off considerably.
Right-handed McMillan went for his shots despite the precarious situation New Zealand were in. He picked Agarkar for three boundaries on the off-side and launched into Yadav with a six over long-off.
The batsman got a second lease of life on 20 when Yuvraj Singh put down a difficult chance off Harbhajan.
The off-spinner further suffered as Oram, on 9, was dropped off his bowling by Agarkar, and then by Yadav when on 23.
Oram made the most of the dropped chances, snatching 22 runs from the 17 balls he faced from Harbhajan. He also took Yadav for 16 runs in an over, which included one four and two sixes.
The partnership came to an end with a horrendous run-out. McMillan turned the ball down the leg-side of Harbhajan and set off for a run. But the batsmen froze mid-way as Yuvraj Singh rushed in from short mid-wicket. The fielder threw the ball to Harbhajan, who knocked off the stumps after a fumble to send Oram packing for 36 form 57 balls. (6-127)
McMillan was out in the very next over, top-edging the ball to Pathan at mid-wicket off Agarkar, to end a positive innings of 54 under pressure. (7-130)
Chris Cairns and Brendon McCullum didn't let the momentum slip despite the loss of two wickets. They shared a partnership of 37 runs from 6.2 overs at the rate of 5.84. Though Cairns looked suspect against the spin of Harbhajan, he scored 20 from 23 balls.
The off-spinner finally got his man when he had him caught at short fine leg by Yadav. (8-167)
Nehra's, as expected, was not as effective in the second spell. And with the batsmen ready to pounce on anything short of length on the back foot, he was thrashed to the fence twice times by McCullum in one over.
New Zealand's wicket-keeper-batsman kept them in the hunt with 49 from 39 runs. He lost Vettori on 199 to a direct hit from Agarkar from the fence and decided to go for the big hits with just a wicket remaining.
McCullum was last man out as New Zealand finished on 215 from 43.1 overs.
The Indian bowlers, after a fantastic start, had again let the opposition off the hook. Though the target is not much, considering the run-feast that's expected at Bulawayo, India looked complacent in the middle-overs, waiting for the batsmen to make mistakes rather than looking for a quick finish.
The battle was set-up as Shane Bond, substituted for Nathan Astle, came steaming in to India captain Sourav Ganguly.
Ganguly was beaten on four occasions in the first over itself, as the New Zealand bowler did the obvious, keeping the ball short and darting it away, to a six-man off-side field.
After a maiden first over, Sehwag made clear his intent by pulling Jacob Oram for four off the first ball. Ganguly also scored a boundary off Oram as India amassed 11 runs in the over.
What followed was disaster.
Bond ended Ganguly's woes as he had the left-hander caught behind the wicket on five.
The ball pitched outside the leg stump and was moving further away as Ganguly tried to fend it off his hips. He gloved the ball to wicketkeeper Brendon McCullum. (11-1)
Bond, who pitched short consistently against Ganguly, then bowled a yorker to India's supersub Venugopal Rao. The Andhra batsman was also beaten for pace (145 kmph) as the ball crashed into his stumps even as his bat was coming down. (11-2)
In the next over, Bond removed India's most reliable batsman, Rahul Dravid.
The India vice-captain cracked the away-going delivery on to his stumps, to make it 17 for three.
Bond was spitting unplayable deliveries at one end, and Fleming, seeing that Oram was giving India scoring opportunities, replaced him with Andre Adams.
The move paid off instantly as Adams, not quite as pacy as Bond, was able to snick the wicket of Yuvraj Singh.
The left-hander fished at the ball going away from the body, edging it to Fleming at first slip. (19-4).
Just when India looked like playing out the opening burst from Bond, Mohammed Kaif messed it up by slashing hard at a short and wide ball, the last of the over, that landed into third man's lap. (34-5).
Off the first ball of his next over, Bond picked the scalp of Virender Sehwag.
The right-hander, who was watching the Bond show from the other end, couldn't resist driving the ball off the back foot. It was pitched up this time and Sehwag tried to direct it through point, but Hamish Marshall came up with an outstanding diving catch to give Bond his third five-wicket haul in ODIs. (39-6).
Bond's bowling was killing India, but the batsmen insisted with their suicidal ways.
The explosive Dhoni failed to mend his ways to suit the situation and slashed hard at Adams and was caught behind. (43-7). Ajit Agarkar repeated the act, this time edging the ball to first slip. (44-8).
J P Yadav and Irfan Pathan took India past its previous lowest score, 54 against Sri Lanka in Sharjah in 2000.
And in what seemed an improbable task, they also posted India's hundred on the scoreboard.
The excitement dipped after Bond's spell and Yadav and Pathan were able to play themselves in. The pair also showed the virtues of keeping a cool head, as they squeezed in the boundaries in between hard-fought runs.
Oram and Chris Cairns didn't look lethal. Vettori brought his arm-ball into play, appealing for lbw against Yadav on a couple of occasions, but went wicketless for the first five overs.
While playing safe, Pathan and Yadav didn't miss an opportunity to punish the loose ball.
The left-hander scored freely at a run-a-ball, and hit Vettori over the mid-wicket fence for six to breathe life into India's effort.
Gaining in confidence from his younger partner, Yadav launched into a six off Cairns. He was playing only his third international match, but the experience of playing under pressure for Railways stood him in good stead.
In the last Ranji season, he scored 584 runs and had 36 wickets in nine matches, and championed his team to a Ranji Trophy title. Yadav has for long been talked about as one of the best all-rounders in India and he proved his worth in the national team with a mature innings.
Yadav cut Vettori in front of point for a single to reach his maiden ODI fifty.
The 30-year-old then found his inside-edge off the left-arm spinner, running down for four to complete a 100-run partnership.
The Indian batsmen were nibbling away at the target and started raising hopes of a remarkable come-from-behind victory. Most relieving was the fact that Yadav and Pathan did not look rushed. They were ready to grind out the runs.
New Zealand used their third 'powerplay' from the 35th over and brought Bond into the attack. But this time the bowler could afford to bowl with only one slip, as the Indian batsmen looked to exploit the gaps in the field.
Yadav got away flashing the bat as the ball lofted over the slips and ran off to the fence.
But India's demise wasn't too far. One good ball stood between India and victory and the batsmen were pushing their luck. Bond dropped Pathan off a leading edge off his own bowling , but took his revenge with the last ball of the over. Pathan edged the good-length delivery into the wicketkeeper's gloves. (162-9)
Yadav was the last man out, caught by McMillan at mid-off off Oram for 69. It ended India's fightback from at 164 in 37.2 overs.
Yadav and Pathan showed spirit to stage a comeback despite some inept batting by the top order that put the task beyond them. Taking the team to victory after being down 44 for eight was too much to ask for.