Munro ton levels series

The saying is that a must-win game brings out the best in you. And boy, did the Kiwis come back hard after their loss in Delhi. Their batting didn’t click in the previous game and they had a point to prove. The way they prepared for this game, batted brilliantly and then defended the total despite a fine knock by Virat Kohli, showed their desire to win against a strong Indian side.

One expected Kane Williamson to chase given the flat pitch in Rajkot but he opted to bat first. The Kiwis made two changes to their line-up, bringing in Adam Milne and Glenn Phillips for Tim Southee and Tom Latham respectively. India, made just one change - Mohammed Siraj made his international debut and replaced the retired Ashish Nehra. Virat Kohli mentioned at the toss that dew could play a big role and he was anyways looking to chase given the amount of dew over the past few days. But New Zealand were in with a plan.

India’s new-ball bowlers stifled the Black Caps at the Kotla and the aim was to attack them. Colin Munro got off to a promising start, as Mohammed Siraj’s first over in international cricket showed a bit of nervousness. The pacer conceded 10 runs off the over but there was more to come. Bhuvneshwar Kumar was creating pressure but did not get enough support from the other end. Yuzvendra Chahal’s first over changed the momentum a bit as Martin Guptill scored 17 runs off it. New Zealand scored 48 runs off the Powerplay, without losing any wicket and they were sensing some ascendancy.

The Kiwis brought up their first 50-plus opening stand in T20Is since their match against Pakistan in Mohali during the 2016 World T20. The openers started dealing in boundaries and brought up the 100-run stand as well. Colin Munro smashed back-to-back sixes and brought up his fifty, albeit a chance was put down by Shreyas Iyer. Soon, Chahal got the much-needed breakthrough when Guptill mistimed one to long off, giving an easy catch to Hardik Pandya. There was a sense that a comeback could be on the cards but it was not to be.

Boundaries kept flowing off Colin Munro’s blade and New Zealand were heading to a big total. He cruised to his second T20I ton and became just the fourth player to score multiple T20I tons after Brendon McCullum, Chris Gayle and Evin Lewis. He also became the first player to score a century in this format against India in India, showing his caliber.

India though bowled superbly in the death. With the score reading 174/2 after 17 overs, New Zealand were eyeing somewhere in the range of 210-220 but they finished on 196/2. Jasprit Bumrah was brilliant with the ball, giving away just 23 runs off his 4 overs while Bhuvi went for only 29 in his 4. But the others other bowlers had figures of 12-0-144-2. Munro finished on an unbeaten 109 off just 58 balls with 7 fours and 7 sixes but he had his fair share of luck. He was dropped a couple of times and also survived a run out chance when Rohit Sharma returned a wild throw to Dhoni.

India had a difficult task in their hands, but they had the firepower to chase it down and dew was going to play a big factor too. They needed a solid opening partnership, but Trent Boult had some other plans. He dismissed Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma in the second over and the visitors were on top. Kohli then sprung a surprise, promoting the promising young batsman Shreyas Iyer to number 3 and he got off to a flier. The duo quickly put the pressure back on the Kiwis as they smashed a few boundaries. The 17 runs scored in the final over of the Powerplay gave the home side high hopes as the 50-stand was raised quickly. But then Iyer fell to the man with the Midas touch tonight – Colin Munro and the pressure was back again.

Kohli took another gamble, sending Hardik Pandya at number 4 but the latter was out quickly too when he failed to read an Ish Sodhi googly. That left the senior pros - MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli with a tedious job. The experienced duo had to chase down a big total at more than 12 runs per over. Virat Kohli looked at his best once again in a run chase and brought up his fifty off just 32 balls but MS Dhoni seemed to be struggling. He was not able to time the balls well and ended up consuming too many deliveries, which eventually put pressure on Kohli and he fell.

Eventually, India could not quite summon the firepower needed to chase the target and fell short by a mammoth 40 runs. Just three batsmen managed to reach double figures. There were some positives for the hosts, with Virat Kohli becoming the first Indian batsman to score 7000 T20 runs (Domestic +International) and overtook Dilshan in the overall T20I runs tally, clinching the second spot in the list of most runs in this format.

New Zealand were simply brilliant with the ball tonight. Trent Boult was the pick of the bowlers as he claimed a 4-fer on a wicket which was good for the batters. But the rest, barring Colin de Grandhomme were not expensive either. Adam Milne conceded just 8 runs in 2 Powerplay overs and went for 16 only in his final over by which time, the game was done and dusted. The spinners in Santner and Sodhi had combined figures of 8-0-56-2, which proved to be a decisive factor. The Indian tweakers went for 1/75 in 7 combined.

Well, we are now in for a decider. It has been two one-sided encounters so far. Will we see a thriller in the decider? The third and final T20I is on Tuesday, 7th November, 2017 in Thiruvananthapuram, another new venue. It simply promises to be an exciting contest between both sides.

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