Bowlers urged to stay strong against Sehwag

Whether the BLACKCAPS deflated bowlers can prevent a one-day cricket series whitewash at Eden Park tomorrow is likely to depend on Virender Sehwag's mood.

India are closing in on a 4-0 victory in the five-match rubber and are so confident that they might go relatively easy and include a couple of virtual spectators in their line-up.

Young left-arm spinner Pragyan Ohja might be upgraded from net bowling and pace bowler Irfan Pathan could be involved for the first time since he was thrashed in last month's Twenty20s.

The duo are among five players to return home before the three-test series starts in Hamilton next Wednesday, so tomorrow's ODI could be a parting gift.

Sachin Tendulkar is also unlikely to risk aggravating his bruised abdominal muscles but there will be no respite at the top of the order, where Sehwag threatens to give New Zealand's attack another thorough working over.

Sehwag, 30, clubbed 112 on his last visit to Eden Park in early 2003, and after blasting an unbeaten 125 from 74 balls in Hamilton on Wednesday, he again provides the major headache for New Zealand captain Daniel Vettori given he has collected 259 runs at 86.33 at a strikerate of 150.58.

Rather than tear strips off his already fragile bowlers, Vettori said he had gently encouraged his bowlers to stick to their plans against Sehwag and his sparkling support acts.

"We're continually going back to the bowlers and showing them that when they hit certain areas it is tough for the Indian guys to score and we do put pressure on them," Vettori explained.

"The key is to be consistent with that."

Sehwag, who creamed India's fastest ODI century from 60 balls at Seddon Park, appears a special case but Vettori said video analysis proved he could be contained.

"If we get it in the right areas we can trouble him and we can stop him from scoring," Vettori said.

"We keep imploring the bowlers to make sure they hit the right areas, and if they do, then good things happen."

While New Zealand have conceded a first ODI series at home since Australia won 5-0 in 2005, Vettori said the final day-nighter was far from a "dead" rubber.

"This is a momentum game for us before the tests -- we don't want to go down 4-0, we want to win a game and give our one-day side the credibility it deserves.

"We've played well for a while now, though this series we haven't showed that against a team that's been a lot better than us in most disciplines."

Despite Sehwag's demolition job and contributions from Tendulkar, Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Suresh Raina -- who is not considered worthy of a test berth -- Vettori rightly pointed out New Zealand had at times matched the Indians.

"At times both sets of bowlers are dreading running in," he said, a view endorsed by India's South African coach Gary Kirsten.

Despite romping to their sixth ODI series victory on the trot, Kirsten said his bowlers were also scarred by the experience.

"Absolutely. New Zealand have batted extremely well.

"They have shown some real innovation. We've had numerous bowling meetings in terms of trying to work out areas where we would like to bowl and they put us under pressure."

Destroyer-in-chief Sehwag agreed India's seamers were also suffering.

"When they (Brendon McCullum and Jesse Ryder) had the partnership of 166 (in Christchurch) we were down," he said.

"When someone is hitting like they were, we can't do anything. Maybe they mishit and get out."

Meanwhile, stand-in wicketkeeper Peter McGlashan revealed New Zealand's fielders had little come back in the sledging stakes.

An attempt to taunt Sehwag as he closed in on three figures at Seddon Park missed the mark.

"I tried to wind him up a few times hoping he might throw his wicket away," McGlashan said.

"When he was on 96 I said `So how are you going to bring up your hundred?' He said if Dan (Vettori) bowls it in the right area I'm going to hit him for six'.

"Sure enough he charged down the wicket, had a go and the ball snuck over the line. He turned around and gave me a bit of a wry smile."




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