India crush New Zealand by 117 runs in final warm-up match

Chennai, Feb 16 (PTI) Captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni led asolid batting display by Indians with an explosive unbeatencentury to set up a crushing 117-run victory over a haplessNew Zealand in a lop-sided warm-up game ahead of the CricketWorld Cup here today.

Dhoni smashed a 64-ball 108 not out and Gautam Gambhircontributed a classy 89 as India first scored an imposing 360for five after electing to bat and then shot out New Zealandfor 243 in 43.1 overs to notch up their second World Cupwarm-up victory on the trot.

Chasing an imposing 361 to win, New Zealand batsmenwilted under pressure as Indian spinners took centrestage on ahelpful pitch at the M A Chidambaram Stadium to maintain aclean slate ahead of their World Cup opener against Bangladeshin Dhaka on Sunday.

Needing to score at a stiff rate of 7.20 runs an over, itwas always a tough task for the team playing second andexpectedly Indian slow bowlers extracted turn and bounce fromthe pitch as the Kiwis surrendered without much fight.

Harbhajan Singh, Piyush Chawla and Yuvraj Singh broke theback of the Kiwi batting, taking two wickets apiece whileRavichandran Ashwin also had a satisfying outing with 1/31,having provided the initial breakthrough by dismissing openerMartin Guptill.

Ashish Nehra, who went without wicket in his initialspell, took the last two wickets.

Barring the openers -- Brendon McCullum (58 off 54 balls)and and Guptill (38 off 45 balls) -- who negotiated the Indiannew ball bowlers well, all other batsmen, including RossTaylor, who captained the Kiwis today, Jessy Rider and ScottStyris failed to raise to the occasion.

Except for the opening stand of 94 from 15 overs, theKiwis could not put up any more substantial partnerships asDhoni rotated Harbhajan, Ashwin, Yuvraj and Chawla.

Both Chawla and Ashwin bowled a tight line and length andDhoni continued with them for long spells, perhaps to assessthe right one for the second spinner''s slot for the tournamentproper.

Harbhajan, who bowled four overs on the trot, was in hisusual penetrative bowling. .

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