Calm Cairns shows sense of occasion

Say what you like about Chris Cairns but his feel of the big occasion is becoming legendary. Injured since New Zealand's opening game against Zimbabwe he returned for yesterday's ICC Knockout Trophy final against India with devastating consequences. Needing 265 runs after Sourav Ganguly had scored his second successive hundred of the competition, Cairns trumped it by scoring an unbeaten century to see his team home with two balls to spare.

Say what you like about Chris Cairns but his feel of the big occasion is becoming legendary. Injured since New Zealand's opening game against Zimbabwe he returned for yesterday's ICC Knockout Trophy final against India with devastating consequences. Needing 265 runs after Sourav Ganguly had scored his second successive hundred of the competition, Cairns trumped it by scoring an unbeaten century to see his team home with two balls to spare.

Coming to the crease in the 15th over with the score at 82 for 3, Cairns, a powerful striker of the ball, proceeded to hit two sixes and eight fours. Yet even more impressive than his clean striking was the way he and Chris Harris, who made 46, kept calm in the face of a mounting run-rate that with five overs to go had risen to 9.5 per over.

With New Zealand 220 for 5, India were favourites, a situation the crowd, mainly local Indians, conveyed with a cacophony of klaxons, whistles and drums. They had kept it up most of the day, but now it became deafening as their heroes appeared to home in on victory.

But they did not reckon on an error of judgement from Ganguly, who called upon the inexperienced Zaheer Khan to bowl the 46th over in place of the far more experienced Venkatesh Prasad. Unable to find the block-hole, 10 runs came from the over, while Prasad, whose brilliant early spell had accounted for Craig Spearman and Stephen Fleming, failed to bowl his full complement.

With 15 coming from the next over by Anil Kumble - six of them from a huge straight hit by Cairns - the Kiwi's outside chance had become virtual certainty. Indeed only the removal of Harris, brilliantly caught by Robin Singh, brought a moment's doubt, though that was soon scotched by Adam Parore's frenetic scampering between the wickets.

For sheer excitement, it was the best match of the tournament. It also required New Zealand to make the highest total of the competition batting second, beating the 253 they scored to defeat Pakistan in the semi-final.

On another strip of batting heaven, it should have been more. Put in to bat, Ganguly and Sachin Tendulkar pulverised the opening bowlers Geoff Allott and Shayne O'Connor.

After 15 overs, the score was 86 for 0 and India looked set to break the 300 mark. But two silly run-outs, both slickly performed by Scott Styris, cost Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid their wickets.

With the momentum checked, it slowed further after Ganguly was out in the 43rd over, mis-hitting a full toss off Nathan Astle to long-on.

Poor shot selection followed, and it was this, along with the eschewing of singles at the start by Ganguly and Tendulkar, which probably cost India 20 to 30 runs.

There was no doubt in New Zealand's mind that they had got off lightly and as they left the field at the end of India's innings, they were all shaking each others hands. When Cairns whipped away the winning runs, their celebrations were far less formal.

New Zealand won toss

INDIA

*S C Ganguly c Harris b Astle 117 S R Tendulkar run out 69 R Dravid run out 22 Yuvraj Singh c Twose b Styris 19 V G Kambli c O'Connor b Styris 1 R R Singh c Spearman b Allott 13 A B Agarkar not out 15 ÿV Dahiya not out 1 Extras (lb1 w4 nb2) 7 Total (for 6, 50 overs) 264

Fall: 1-141 2-202 3-220 4-229 5-237 6-256.

Did not bat: A Kumble, Z Khan, B K V Prasad.

Bowling: Allott 10-0-54-1; O'Connor 5-0-38-0; Cairns 10-2-40-0; Styris 10-0-53-2; Astle 10-0-46-1; Harris 5-0-32-0

NEW ZEALAND

C M Spearman c Yuvraj Singh b Prasad 3 N J Astle c R R Singh b Kumble 37 *S P Fleming lbw b Prasad 5 R G Twose st Dahiya b Kumble 31 C L Cairns not out 102 C D McMillan c Ganguly b Tendulkar 15 C Z Harris c R R Singh b Prasad 46 ÿA C Parore not out 3 Extras (lb15 w1 nb7) 23 Total (for 6, 49.4 overs) 265

Fall: 1-6 2-37 3-82 4-109 5-132 6-254.

Did not bat: S B Styris, S B O'Connor, G I Allott.

Bowling: Khan 7-0-54-0; Prasad 7-0-27-3; Agarkar 6.4-0-44-0; Kumble 9-0-55-2; Tendulkar 10-1-38-1; Yuvraj Singh 10-0-32-0.

Umpires: S A Bucknor (WI) and D R Shepherd (Eng).

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