Auckland produced another T20I run-fest, another exciting game.
It was a mere five days ago that India were in Bengaluru playing the three-match ODI series-decider against the mighty Australians. After putting it past the Aussies, India flew to New Zealand and landed in Auckland just a couple of days before the first T20I.
There were talks about jet lag and the tight schedule but Indian skipper Virat Kohli brushed it aside and told “it is was it is”. On what is a good chasing ground, he won the toss and opted to field first. However, Martin Guptill and Colin Munro came out all guns blazing as they smashed 68 runs in the powerplay. They put the Indian bowlers under pressure and were looking good. Apart from Jasprit Bumrah, everyone who bowled in the powerplay was taken for runs.
But Yuzvendra Chahal and Shivam Dube pulled it back nicely soon after the field restrictions were lifted. They conceded just 23 overs in the four overs they bowled between them during that stage and also got the wicket of Martin Guptill. There were a flurry of boundaries and the pressure was released after the 10-over mark. But India got wickets in back to back overs and brought the match in balance again.
Shardul Thakur had Colin Munro holed out at deep square leg where Chahal took a good catch while Ravindra Jadeja got Colin de Grandhomme caught at short fine-leg. But then it was time for the experienced duo of Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor to resurrect the innings and take the attack to the Indian bowlers.
Between overs 12 to 17, the Williamson-Taylor pair got at least one boundary every over and pressed on the accelerator. The New Zealand skipper raced to fifty off just 25 balls while Taylor got to 32 in no time. The duo shared a 61-run partnership which came off a mere 26 balls. When Williamson was dismissed on the last ball of Chahal’s spell (17th over of the innings), New Zealand were 178/4 and they were looking good to get more than 210-215.
However, Bumrah executed his yorkers and slower deliveries really well and pulled things back. He gave away just four runs in the 18th over before Mohammed Shami conceded nine runs to finish his spell of four overs with figures of 0/53. In the final over, Bumrah leaked 12, courtesy a misfield and an overthrow which cost three extra runs. New Zealand finished on 203/5 in their 20 overs. It was a par total but not a really threatening one considering the short boundaries and the flat nature of the pitch. If not for India’s premier fast bowler who seems to have injured himself as well, India would’ve been chasing a lot more.
KL Rahul walked out to bat alongside Rohit Sharma. Chasing more than 10 runs an over, you need a boundary every over and the key is to maximize the powerplay. However, India lost Rohit Sharma in the second over after he smashed Mitchell Santner for a six. The left-arm spinner slowed it up wide outside off-stump to tempt the Indian vice-captain and reaped the rewards.
However, Rahul didn’t let that wicket affect India. Kohli joined him in the middle and continued in the same tempo. Rahul showcased some class batting as he played a few breath-taking shots while Kohli was on his merry way as well. The duo got a couple of chances as the Kiwis missed an easy runout chance before Ish Sodhi dropped Kohli to give the Indian captain a life.
Kohli and Rahul kept the scoreboard ticking and found the fence at regular intervals to stay ahead of the required rate. They shared a 99-run stand which came in just 8.2 overs. That stand was broken by Ish Sodhi who had Rahul holing out at long-off. He was dismissed for a well-made 27-ball 56. India lost Kohli the very next ball as Martin Guptill took a spectacular catch at deep mid-wicket to send back the Indian captain for 45.
The pressure was on at that stage. India still needed 83 to get from 53 balls. They had two new batsmen at the crease – Shreyas Iyer and Shivam Dube. Iyer got a boundary to get going while Dube got a four and a six off successive deliveries from Santner to get the momentum back in India’s favour. But he holed out trying to launch Sodhi out of the park.
Manish Pandey joined Iyer in the middle but it hardly mattered as it was the latter who took the game by the scruff of its neck and drove India home. He got boundaries and sixes regularly and Pandey kept feeding him the strike and India got home with an over to spare. Iyer scored 58 off just 29 balls which included five fours and three sixes. He was awarded the player of match too.
Thus, India went 1-0 in the series and will return to the same venue in less than 48 hours since the win to seek a big series lead of 2-0. New Zealand have things to ponder over with their bowling looking a little off-colour while India will be sweating over Bumrah’s fitness/injury.