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McCullum is at the top of his game: Laxman


Brendon McCullum made an unbeaten 100 from 56 balls with seven fours and nine sixes to carry Chennai to a mammoth score. © BCCIBrendon McCullum, the Chennai Super Kings opener, made it rain runs at the MA Chidambaram Stadium, hitting a century of such quality that VVS Laxman, the Sunrisers Hyderabad mentor and former Indian batting legend, to hail it a “special innings”.
"It was a special innings especially in the manner in which he hit Boult (Trent) for a six in the last over,” said Laxman after his wards came fell 45 runs short of Chennai’s imposing 209 for 4 on Saturday (April 11). “It was a very good ball but Brendon put it away for a six. The bowlers did not get the desired rhythm and also credit to the CSK batsmen to put pressure on the bowlers."
McCullum made an unbeaten 100 from 56 balls with seven fours and nine sixes to carry Chennai to a mammoth score. If that innings wasn’t enough to throw Hyderabad off the track, MS Dhoni’s did so. The Chennai skipper made a 29-ball 53 studded with four fours and four sixes.
"Even MS (Dhoni), when he came in he put pressure on Karn Sharma in one over. He never allowed bowlers to get in to their rhythm. Except for Trent and Bhuvi (Bhuvneshwar Kumar) to some extent, our bowlers were not in the best of rhythm,” reflected Laxman.
McCullum was hailed by his camp too, as Fleming lauded his fellow New Zealand’s dynamic innings.
“The way we started the first game, the players looked rusty. But we knew the areas that we needed to improve. Today the batting was dynamic and sensible,” said Fleming, who was well pleased with the overall show his side had put up.
“It was close to flawless. Even if you’re the hardest critic – to come up with where we went wrong will be difficult. There was some great thinking and good leadership. I’m very happy as a coach.”
The contest between Boult and McCullum created much interest among the viewers and Fleming also enjoyed the rivalry between the country-mates. "It was a good contest between them and they were in excellent form. You know McCullum is going to go hard on anybody. That is the intriguing part of IPL. Kiwi vs Kiwi and South African vs South African keeps you interested."
Bhuvneshwar conceded 31 runs in four overs while Boult went for 34 and picked up 1 wicket. Ishant Sharma, however, was expensive and went for 46 runs from three overs while Karn Sharma was hit for 51 from four.
"Ishant did not find his rhythm. The no-balls upset his rhythm,” said Laxman of the pacer who bowled over-stepped four times in a his first match back from injury after missing the World Cup. “He started well but when he bowled no-balls against top quality batting line up like CSK had, it plays really heavy on a bowler's mind.
"That is exactly what Ishant had realised and we have to accept that McCullum is at the top of his game, not only in this match but over the last one year. He is a very powerful hitter of the cricket ball."
It was a test by fire for David Warner, the new Hyderabad captain, but while his stint in the field was a rough one, it rarely affected his batting as he belted 53 from 42 deliveries. Soon after his dismissal though, courtesy a smart piece of catching by Dwayne Smith on the ropes at deep midwicket, Hyderabad fell by the wayside, finishing their innings on 164 for 6 from 20 overs.
"When you chase an important total you should have some wickets in hand and one of the set batsmen to play till the end. Warner was that batsman for us but it was a brilliant catch which got him out,” said Laxman.
Hyderabad had gone into the match without Dale Steyn, and Laxman explained the decision by pointing to the four overseas players quota and the franchise wanting to exploit the left-arm angle that Boult offered. “We wanted the left hand variations in our bowling, especially considering that the top three batsmen Brendon, Smith and (Suresh) Raina,” said Laxman. “We wanted someone with that kind of variation. It is a tough choice. We thought Boult suited the combination against the CSK batting.”
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