Buoyant India win curtailed game

The three-match T20I series had moved on to the decider in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala after the two previous T20Is ended up being one-sided. India won the first, while the Kiwis walked away with an easy win in the second. The stage was set for a perfect decider, but weather threatened to play spoilsport for most parts of the day, and even delayed the toss. The conditions were sticky and it was not the usual T20 game where fours & sixes were in plenty. This was one where the bowlers were on top of batsmen right through, but it was the Indian bowlers who edged past the Kiwis under high-pressure circumstances.

New Zealand, who were playing their 100th T20I, won the toss. Kane Williamson had no hesitation in bowling first with the match truncated to an 8-overs-a-side game. The groundstaff did a great job to get some action, as it did seem at a point that the game could have been washed out. The Kiwis came out with a certain plan against the Indian openers. There was little doubt that batsmen would go after the bowling right from the first ball, and they treated each over as a death over.

Trent Boult started proceedings with a tight over that went for just seven runs. Williamson entrusted Santner with the second over, and he didn’t disappoint his skipper. Santner didn’t give any room to Rohit in particular, and went for just seven runs.

The third over was given to Southee, and he ensured that India were pegged back with two scintillating wickets. He dismissed Dhawan & Rohit off successive deliveris to send both the openers back in the pavilion. Southee relied heavily on slower deliveries, and didn’t give any pace to either of the openers or the batsmen who followed. Southee finished with outstanding figures of 2/13 in his two overs, the maximum a bowler could bowl in this shortened game.

Kohli got going briefly, and pelted Ish Sodhi for a four and a six. However, the joy was short-lived as he holed out in the deep in the same over. India were suddenly reduced to 31/3 with half the innings done. Manish Pandey tried to get going and picked up a few useful boundaries early in his innings. Sodhi claimed his second wicket, that of Shreyas Iyer who went back for a run-a-ball 6.

The last two overs didn’t go to plan for India either, even though they had Hardik Pandya at the crease. Pandya smashed a huge six off Santner to take India’s score beyond 60. In the final over, Pandey was caught by some brilliant team-work in the deep. Santner took the catch with a dive, close to the ropes, but had to throw the ball to de Grandhome who completed the take. Boult kept things quiet in the final over of the innings. Pandya could score only 5 runs off the final four balls, and Dhoni didn’t come on strike at all. In the end, India managed to score 67/5.

A striking observation from the first innings was that the ball was sticking on the surface, and there was a lot of spin for the tweakers. Of all the deliveries, a majority of them were either cutters or those bowled by the spinners. 68 did seem like an easy target to the eye, but New Zealand had to bat well to get there.

The start seemed right for the Kiwis, as Colin Munro blasted Bhuvneshwar Kumar for a massive six. The tables turned for India on the last ball of the first over, when a well-disguised slower one that pegged Guptill’s off stump back. In the very next over, Bumrah came on with his variations and forced Munro to play a false stroke. He skied the ball high up beyond mid-on. Rohit made a good run backwards, kept his eyes on the ball. He fell, he tumbled, and got the ball in his grasp, and even ensured that he didn’t let it go. It was a fantastic catch under the circumstances.

Like the Indians, the Kiwis were going at run-a-ball. The Indian pacers didn’t give any pace to the batsmen, while the spinners bowled quicker through the air, not allowing them to get underneath the ball. Williamson & Phillips couldn’t build any momentum in the chase as Chahal & Bhuvneshwar Kumar bowled exceedingly well. In the fifth over of the game, Kane Williamson was sent packing by a brilliant direct hit by Hardik Pandya, at the non-striker’s end. Williamson had no chance as he took off for a risky single, and was caught miles out. On the very next delivery, Phillips holed out to a well-judged catch, inches away from the rope, by the uber-cool Shikhar Dhawan.

New Zealand were going nowhere in the chase, as de Grandhome & Nicholls were brought together at the crease. De Grandhome got going with a biggie off the final ball of Kuldeep’s over that spelled disaster for the Kiwis. Chahal was given the responsibility of bowling the sixth over, and he did an outstanding job by conceding just 3 runs to add on to the already existing pressure over the Kiwis.

Kohli went in with the brave decision of handing the ball to Jasprit Bumrah in the penultimate over. He got a wicket early in the over, that of Phillips, but was even hit for a boundary by Tom Bruce. The following ball was spawned wide down the leg side, and Dhoni did well to dive and keep the ball from going away for a lot of runs. Another run-out followed, but after some drama. Bruce missed a swing, and Dhoni who collected the ball also missed the stumps with his throw. The ball was then collected by Bumrah who had a shy at the non-striker’s end, only to miss and send the ball down to long on. The ball was then thrown to Dhoni, who was waiting to pounce on the stumps. Pounce he did, and Bruce who was returning for a second on the overthrows was caught short. Bumrah finished the over without conceding much.

Hardik Pandya was given the responsibility of bowling the final over with 19 needed off the over. He started the over well, but on the second delivery was hit straight back at Hardik who stuck his hand out. He was in pain for some time, but thankfully, it was his non-bowling hand. He continued, only to be smashed over mid-wicket for a maximum. However, Hardik kept his cool and got de Grandhomme off strike with a good slower one. Post that, he didn’t bowl any bad deliveries and took India home, as they won by 6 runs.

India went on to win their first ever bilateral T20I series against New Zealand, also breaking their winning streak in 8 consecutive T20I series. India were tested once again with the bat, in the first innings, but they put up a decent total on a not-so-batting-friendly surface. Their bowlers rose to the occasion, stood up and delivered when it mattered to hand them a highly-motivating win. Team India’s next assignment is against the Lankans who they host for a Test series first up. The first Test begins on 16th November, and India will go into the series high on confidence after beating the Kiwis in the ODI as well as the T20I series.

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