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Tendulkar In Form, But Sehwag The Worry For NZ

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Tendulkar In Form, But Sehwag The Worry For NZ

By Chris Barclay of NZPA

Wellington, March 7 NZPA - Sachin Tendulkar slipped into the run-scoring groove last night but Virender Sehwag remains the critical wicket as New Zealand battle to contain an ominous Indian batting line-up.

Tendulkar may have top scored in India's abbreviated innings on a damp Westpac Stadium but it is the ultra-aggressive Sehwag that remains the thorn in New Zealand's side.

Sehwag blasted a typically free-flowing 54 from 36 balls at the top of the order as India set aside the distraction of three frustrating rain delays to amass 188 for four from 28.4 overs.

His nine boundaries and solitary six were ultimately rendered meaningless but it is likely the opener's contribution would have proved pivotal had the second match of the five-game series not been abandoned before New Zealand were set a target.

Tendulkar followed with a fluent 61 from 69 balls, an improvement on his tour-opening 20 in Napier, but it was fellow opener Sehwag who highlighted another drab instalment of a sodden summer of cricket.

Sehwag wasted little time laying into New Zealand's bowlers in the Twenty20 format before plundering 77 from 56 balls at McLean Park on Tuesday to help ensure New Zealand's run chase was beyond reach.

New Zealand captain Daniel Vettori was critical of his bowlers after their inaccurate display in game one, and reckoned there was only a marginal improvement after India's top order again maintained a run rate of better than six per over.

Tendulkar was kept quiet initially, but there was no respite from Sehwag's flailing blade.

"There was a slight improvement to the batsmen other than Sehwag," Vettori said.

"We were reasonably disciplined but we've still got to do a lot of work on him.

"To try and stop him we have to be more consistent. We haven't got close enough to the mark."

Vettori has not been immune to Sehwag's heavy hitting and sympathised with his colleagues.

"Destructive batsman put people off their game plans. I wouldn't say you're intimidated but you're fearful of what's going to come, you never know what shot he's going to play," he said.

"He can hit all around the park. I suppose guys run in and second guess themselves at times about what's going to happen."

Kyle Mills, a mainstay of the New Zealand side that drew the Chappell-Hadlee Trophy series in Australia last month, has copped the most punishment -- four boundaries of his third over spelt the end of his first spell.

Mills took 0-69 off seven overs in Napier and recorded more economical figures of one for 46, also from seven, last night.

The Aucklander missed three matches due to an Achilles injury before making his comeback in Napier -- but Vettori was loathe to use the lay-off as an excuse, saying Sehwag was simply playing him well.

It is the second time this summer New Zealand have been confronted with a domineering opener.

Chris Gayle performed a similar role for the West Indies, though Vettori thought Sehwag posed a more difficult challenge.

"Gayle scored a lot of runs against us but we had a feel for where he was going to hit and we maybe had more opportunities to block it up.

"Sehwag has so many quality players around him he has the licence to play the way he does.

"It's not just one area we're trying to block up and sometimes against great players the best laid plans can go awry."

Vettori, meanwhile, has other concerns closer to home.

With the impending birth of his first child, regular understudy Jeetan Patel has been called in as cover because the baby's arrival may have complications.

Vettori said he would travel to Christchurch today for tomorrow's third game but he may have to miss matches in Hamilton and Auckland -- and possibly the early stages of the three-test series to support wife Mary.

N ew Zealand are expected to field an unchanged line-up in Christchurch with Peter McGlashan almost certain to retain the wicketkeeping gloves as Brendon McCullum shields his badly bruised right thumb.

McCullum will again play as a specialist batsman meaning Neil Broom is again a contender for 12th man duties.

Indian management remain guarded on the prospect of fast bowler Ishant Sharma featuring after he hurt a shoulder in the second Twenty20 while Sehwag might also be in doubt with a leg injury that forced him to end his innings with a runner.

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