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Dhoni hits 108 as India whip NZ

Last updated on: February 16, 2011 22:21 IST

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India's batting, led by captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni's power hitting, forced New Zealand into submission by piling on a massive total and earned the co-hosts an easy 117-run win in the warm-up game in Chennai on Wednesday.

Dhoni started cautiously but tore apart the New Zealand bowling once he got set, blasting an unbeaten 108 off just 64 balls, inclusive of 11 boundaries and three massive sixes.

Gautam Gambhir (89), Virat Kohli (59) and Suresh Raina (50) also chipped in with half-centuries as India amassed a massive 360 for five from 50 overs, after opting to bat first.

New Zealand started on a positive note and took the attack to the Indian pacemen but failed to keep the momentum going once the Indian spinners came into action.

The loss of openers Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar early did not prove costly for India as Gambhir and Kohli laid the foundation for the onslaught with a 106-run partnership for the third wicket.

Dhoni and left-hander Raina, who was under pressure to confirm his place in the team, added 124 runs for the fifth wicket. Raina persished after completing a 26-ball half century.

The Indian captain at one point hit seven consecutive boundaries -- five off Jacom Oram and two against off-spinner Nathan McCullum -- and made the bowlers pay for drifting on to his pads.

The Indian pace attack, without the experienced Zaheer Khan, did not look threatening, and it was left to the spinners to put the brakes on.

Martin Guptill and Brendon McCullum added 94 for the opening wicket but New Zealand kept losing wickets at important junctures, making it an impossible chase.

Brendon McCullum's run out when he started looking threatening did not help either.

Spinners Harbhajan Singh, Piyush Chawla and Yuvraj Singh and left-arm paceman Ashish Nehra all finished with two wickets for India.

Mahendra Singh DhoniEarlier, Sehwag and Tendulkar started cautiously after Dhoni won the toss for the second time and elected to bat.

The Kiwi pacers extracted bounce and also maintained a steady line in length to stifle the Indian openers.

Tendulkar (17) was the first to go, with the scoreboard reading 35. Soon Sehwag (23) followed him as India were reduced to 42 for two.

However, Gambhir hit form at the right time and resurrected the Indian batting along with Virat Kohli (59), adding 106 crucial runs for the third wicket to save India from the embarrassment of another batting collapse, like in Bangalore against Australia.

After Kohli's departure, Gambhir was involved in a 68-run stand for the fourth wicket with Dhoni. The hosts made good use of the opportunities and also showed better on-field intensity, as both Gambhir and Dhoni rotated their strike and looked for big runs.

During their stay, the pair scored at 7.15 runs an over together for 9.3 overs at the pitch.

Dhoni, who took the role of aggressor after Gambhir's exit, was in his elements as he stepped on the gas and went on a run hunt, hitting the bowlers, particularly Jacob Oram, all around the park.

After completing his half century in just 40 balls, Dhoni raced to 61 inclusive of five successive boundaries, including a four through the square leg region and one over the bowler Oram, who was taken off from duty at end of 43rd over.

Dhoni continued his blitzkrieg and sent spinner Nathan McCullum to the ropes twice, much to the amusement of over 35,000-odd crowd that cheered every shot of the host captain.

New Zealand, skippered by Ross Taylor, used as many as seven bowlers on the wicket which offered good bounce with the odd ball keeping low. But spinners McCullum and Luke Woodcock came a cropper against the mighty Indian batting.

Earlier, after taking a little time to assess the wicket, both Sehwag and Tendulkar started playing their shots picking the odd boundary.

Sehwag was his usual self, trying to go after the bowlers, though he played and missed on quite a few occasions.

Just as the Indian batsmen seemed to be settling down, New Zealand struck the first blow getting rid of Tendulkar out in the eighth over.

Tendulkar, playing his first match after the short injury lay-off midway the South African tour, was harsh on Southee, picking him out for two boundaries in successive overs -- one sliced through the gap in the cover region and another a delectable leg glance.

But the Kiwi bowler won the short duel with the very next ball when Tendulkar, going for a big shot over the mid-on region, failed to connect to the slower ball and was bowled, disappointing the large holiday crowd.

Despite Southee taking the wicket, skipper Taylor replaced him with Jacob Oram from the far end in the 10th over and the bowler tasted success with his very first delivery, dismissing Sehwag. Pitching on the off stump, the ball kept low and went on to hit the target.

This brought Gambhir and Kohli to the crease and they shouldered the responsibility well to stitch together a worthy innings.

Kohli kept the scoreboard moving with singles and odd boundaries, including two in one over from medium pacer James Franklin, while Gambhir played the anchor role.

To arrest the run flow, Taylor introduced double spin attack in the 15h over through Nathan McCullum and Luke Woodcock but the ploy did not work as the Indian duo brought up their 50 partnership and then the team's 100 in quick time.

Gambhir was also lucky when Franklin dropped a tough catch at long-off after he stepped out to hit Woodcock.

Woodcock came in for special treatment from the Indian batsmen and Kohli hammered him for two successive boundaries as he raced to his 50 in 55 balls in the 26th over, prompting Ross to fall back on medium pacers Southee and Oram.

Shortly after their 100-run partnership in 115 balls, Kohli gifted his wicket to Oram when he stretched his bat to a ball pitching outside the off stump and edged it to Brendon McCullum behind the wicket.

Dhoni then promoted himself ahead of Yuvraj Singh, perhaps to keep the left-right combination. India took the batting power play after the drinks break in the 35th over and made full use of it with both Dhoni and Gambhir going after the bowlers.

Gambhir entertained the crowd with three spectacular hits to the fence in a row off Southee as Indian total crossed the 200 mark in the 37th over but the bowler got rid off him in the last over of batting power play.

Trying to make room for himself to play a short-pitched delivery, Gambhir only managed to give a thick edge that was taken easily by Jamie How, who replaced McCullum behind the wickets in the latter part of the innings.

Photograph: Babu/Reuters