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India fall short in nail-biting series decider

Seddon Park was geared up for the third T20I as both, New Zealand and India, came into the game with one win each. With wounds of the colossal ODI defeat in Hamilton still fresh, the Men in Blue were keen to make better memories at the venue and get their first ever T20I series win on Kiwi soil.

Winning the toss, Rohit Sharma decided to bowl first, choosing to stick to the team’s strength of chasing in the all-important series decider. Despite some exemplary bowling by Bhuvneshwar Kumar in the opening spell, the Kiwi openers were on song as they were finding the fence at regular intervals.

After the powerplay, the hosts were in a commanding position with 66 runs on the board, without the loss of any wicket. The opening partnership, growing in runs and confidence match after match, was broken by the trickery of Kuldeep Yadav and the assistance of MS Dhoni behind the stumps. After a fiery knock by Tim Seifert – Kiwis’ mainstay in the series – the hosts were 80/1.

With Colin Munro still at the crease, the runs were coming in abundance as his power-hitting ensured the Kiwis were headed for a big total. It took another Kuldeep delivery to get the prized wicket of the opener, as a mistimed slog from Munro found Hardik’s hands in the 14th over.

After a handy knock by Kane Williamson, Colin de Grandhomme took charge as the Indian bowlers were reminded of his brute strength yet again. Like in Auckland, the Kiwi all-rounder was hitting the ball out of the park at will. The Blackcaps finished off the innings strongly, scoring 61 runs in the last five overs and setting a target of 213.

Team India had a challenge ahead of them, knowing they had been successful only on two of the six occasions chasing 200+ totals in T20Is. To add to India’s troubles, Mitchell Santner – a surprise candidate to bowl the first over – gave the hosts a positive start. Shikhar Dhawan’s slog went straight into the hands of Daryl Mitchell on only the fifth ball of the innings.

Rohit and Vijay Shankar then steered the innings to safety as India were 57/1 after the powerplay. While the skipper was playing a watchful knock, Shankar changed gears to ensure the visitors kept the required rate in check. However, the breakthrough for the Kiwis came in the form of Santner again, as Shankar swept hard only to find de Grandhomme at deep square-leg.

At 81/2, Rishabh Pant came in and wasted no time to get into his own. The youngster carried forward the momentum set by Shankar as he unleashed a barrage of boundaries to take India to 108/2 after ten overs. However, debutant Blair Tickner picked his first wicket as he sent Pant packing after a quickfire 28.

Hardik Pandya played an entertaining cameo in his 11-ball 21, but the Men in Blue found themselves in a difficult position with Rohit, Hardik and Dhoni departing in three successive overs. Dinesh Karthik and Krunal Pandya took the chase to the last over as the duo put up a valiant show of batting under pressure.

However, despite coming within touching reach of the target, India were kept at bay by the Blackcaps. Winning the game by four runs, the hosts won the series, continuing their impressive run in T20Is against Team India.