Chennai, Feb 16 (IANS) Skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni not only scored an unbeaten 64-ball 108 but also saw his wish for middle-order partnerships come good as India galloped to 360 for five against New Zealand in a World Cup warm-up game here Wednesday.
After electing to bat and losing openers Virender Sehwag (23) and Sachin Tendulkar (17) by the 10th over, the Indian inning was propped up by Gautam Gambhir (89 off 85 balls) who was involved in a 106-run stand for the third wicket with Virat Kohli (59 from 68) followed by a partnership of 68 with Dhoni who in turn put together 124 for the fifth in the company of Suresh Raina (50 in 26).
Dhoni’s blitzkrieg lasted 64 deliveries and his knock contained 11 boundaries and three sixes as India moved from a leisurely jog to a sprint to post a massive total.
Earlier, Tendulkar and Sehwag provided a rather sedate start on a pitch that offered some early bounce that the tall Kiwi seamers exploited.
Tendulkar was first to depart when, caught in two minds, he was bowled by Tim Southee while Sehwag was done in by a Jacob Oram delivery that kept low.
Thereafter, India took the upper hand with Gambhir and Kohli opening their shoulders. Gambhir, coming off an injury, was lucky to be dropped when on 14 (at the India total of 83 for 2) by James Franklin who grassed the catch, diving forward at long-off.
The Indian innings switched to turbo-mode when Dhoni took charge and raced to his half-century off 40 deliveries before stepping up the pace by slamming seven consecutive boundaries, five off seamer Jacob Oram and two off spinner Nathan McCullum.
Along with Raina, the skipper raised 50 for the fifth wicket in just 28 deliveries and doubled it in another 17 balls. Raina too joined the big-hitting party around the Kiwi attack that increasingly looked pedestrian.
After Raina’s departure, Dhoni duly completed his century in the final over of the innings much to the glee of the huge turnout.
Kiwi skipper Brendon McCullum rotated his bowlers, but none was successful, including the two spinners Luke Woodcock and Nathan McCullum — both of whom were restrictive at best without looking penetrative.
The seamers, after their initial fire and zest, proved fodder for the Indian middle-order batsmen who indulged themselves with stroke-filled innings.