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The Electronic Telegraph 8th Super Six Match: India v New Zealand
Scyld Berry - 12 June 1999

Kiwi win not calculated to lift haze

New Zealand (253-5) beat India (251-6) by 5 wkts

The grand finale of this World Cup might come sooner than on Sunday at Lord's and in far more spectacular fashion.

At any moment now the ICC's computer, trying to work out the four semi-finalists and their ties, its mind boggled by Duckworth/Lewis and net run-rates, and eventually overwhelmed by the sheer complexity of this competition's regulations, could explode in a display of fireworks far more entertaining than the opening ceremony could manage.

The Super Six format might have been alright if the teams had been different: if West Indies had taken the place of Zimbabwe, and England the place of New Zealand, bringing home supporters with them. Then there might have been, if not a carnival, then at least something more than a stream of one-sided matches in the Super Sixes, to make up for the bafflingness of the regulations.

Yesterday's match was yet another game lacking in lustre and packed with permutations. New Zealand had a semi-final place to play for, and achieved it by means of their five-wicket win with 10 balls to spare. India were doomed before it began, and batted first without inspiration. But they still did enough to be able to go home without fear of retribution and claim that they were unlucky not to reach the semi-finals.

So few have the close matches been that before yesterday's game there had only been three which could make any claim to having a tight finish. South Africa beat Pakistan by three wickets in the only previous Super Six match to have been remotely close; and two matches have been won by a small margin of runs, when Zimbabwe beat India by three and Pakistan beat Australia by 10 runs.

The organisers of ICC had their point when they wanted to reward consistency in the tournament, but too much of the element of sudden-death has been taken away from the Super Six matches. Hence the unedifying spectacle of teams, who are batting second, accepting defeat all too early in the piece and simply nudging away for the sake of their net run-rate.

The last World Cup was not a success either - until it reached the quarter-final stages and took off. This tournament has gone the other way, starting with some tense qualifying matches, especially those involving Pakistan batting first on damp pitches and getting away with it, before going flat. Since the competition had to expand to accommodate more than eight countries, only the 1992 World Cup, with its league format up to the semi-finals, has been a success in the qualifying and knock-out stages.

A fussy PA announcer asked that some Indian spectators should quieten down in the new Radcliffe stand. Most other people at Trent Bridge were grateful to them for bringing some trace of atmosphere to the game, which could ill afford the early departure of Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid (for a grand total of 461 runs in the competition). As usual, the ticket touts were an exact barometer, and as for most of the Super Six matches they were asking face value yesterday or cutting their prices.

Ajay Jadeja raised the game slightly off the ground with his quick-handed strokeplay and a couple of sixes, and New Zealand needed bursts from Geoff Allott to keep them in the game and the tournament. If Allott can swing a red ball, there may yet be the makings of a Test series this summer.

Perhaps unsettled a little by Allott's pace and angle into his body, perhaps dulled by a dead match so far as India were concerned, Saurav Ganguly laboured through 23 overs for his 29. Tendulkar was bowled by a classic nip-backer between his bat and pad, an argument in itself for not exposing him as an opener; while Mohammad Azharuddin was out of form, touch and even date.

It is their shortage of class batting which deprives New Zealand and Zimbabwe, hard as they try to maximise their limited resources, of charisma. Collectively New Zealand's batsmen have even less footwork between them than England's, who at least play half-forward when they do not wait in their crease. An overcast morning and damp Edgbaston pitch at the start of next month, and winning the toss, would be the quickest way to revive the morale of English cricket.

Amid a lot of playing and missing against the swinging ball, Nathan Astle lofted some rugged drives before getting a leading edge to deep gully and Craig McMillan slashed to first slip. Matthew Horne toughed out a particularly bad patch of playing and missing before being run out by Ganguly's direct hit from mid-on, only for rain to halt play at 194 for four for 75 minutes while the crowd waited patiently.

New Zealand had not reached 220 in the tournament before, and did not reach that figure here until the 46th over, by which time Chris Cairns had pulled to long on. Roger Twose, however, had all his Warwickshire experience to bring to bear upon the chase and with fine help from Adam Parore, guided New Zealand home.

So there they go into the semi-finals, without England; and Trent Bridge made a poignant place to recall the fact again. For it was here, in their match against Zimbabwe, that England dawdled through the closing stages, intent upon winning each match and not upon their net run-rate.

If England had scored their last 10 runs off nine balls, instead of 30, to defeat Zimbabwe, and if they had made 50 more runs at the Oval against South Africa - 153 not 103 - then they would have squeezed ahead of Zimbabwe into the Super Sixes. The wisdom of hindsight, of course. But not too much to have asked of England's finest at the time.

Source: The Electronic Telegraph
Editorial comments can be sent to The Electronic Telegraph at et@telegraph.co.uk