Krunal and Rohit help India level series

Krunal Pandya’s Man of the Match award-winning performance enabled India to their first-ever win on Kiwi soil helping them level the series in Auckland on Friday.

A vibrant Auckland crowd welcomed the two teams for the second T20I at Eden Park. With the toss going in New Zealand’s favour, Kane Williamson opted to bat first. Backing India’s ability to chase, captain Rohit Sharma was confident the team was up for the challenge as India remained unchanged.

Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Khaleel Ahmed managed to keep the two Kiwi openers on the backfoot, conceding only five runs in the first two overs. But their hero from the first T20I, Tim Seifert, came into his own with two back-to-back boundaries that got the hosts going. Luckily for India, Bhuvneshwar came back strongly and got rid of Seifert.

Though the Kiwis kept the scoreboard ticking, the first wicket resulted in a domino effect. As against Australia in 2018, it took more than one outing to bring out the best of Krunal Pandya. In a space of two overs, Senior Pandya sent three Kiwi batsmen – Colin Munro, Daryl Mithcell and Kane Williamson – packing. The wicket of Daryl saw the unfolding of some confusion as the umpire’s call was challenged by the Kiwis, where the hotspot showed a prominent edge but the DRS showed three reds. A bewildered Daryl, despite his captain’s best efforts to plead his case, had to depart with only a run to his name.

After ten overs, the hosts were scoring at a run per ball with Yuzvenedra Chahal and Krunal bowling from each end. Colin de Grandhomme brought out a drastic change in gears as 37 runs were scored in two overs, putting the Blackcaps back on track at 97/4.

Khaleel and Hardik took charge of bowling duties to sedate the barrage of the power-hitting from Ross Taylor and de Grandhomme. Courtesy of some muscular hitting, the latter reached his maiden T20I half-century in only 27 balls. However, Hardik managed to break through the robust 77-run partnership as de Grandhomme was caught at extra cover by the Indian skipper in the 16th over.

Managing only 29 runs in the last four overs, the Kiwis failed to the finish the innings as per their liking. A special effort from Vijay Shankar — a direct-hit from long-on, in the 19th over and a composed last over by Khaleel helped India finish strongly.

The Indian innings started on a cautious note, with only a single boundary in the first two overs. However, the Hitman mode was turned on as Rohit was a mix of elegant and destructive. He was hitting the ball out of the park at will. Shikhar Dhawan, too, joined the party as the Indian batsmen put up 50 runs in the first six overs.

Rohit’s innings was turning out to be a quintessential Hitman knock, one with immaculate timing and effortless hitting. En route to his 20th T20I fifty, the highest for any batsman in the shortest format of cricket, he surpassed Martin Guptill to become the highest run-getter in T20Is.

The Hitman-led onslaught came to a break as Ish Sodhi, like in the Wellington match, provided the breakthrough. With 11 wickets, the spinner became the joint highest wicket-taker against Team India in T20Is. In the next over, Dhawan fell prey to Lockie Ferguson’s sensational pace bowling, when his poorly timed hook shot found the hands of de Grandhomme.

Rishabh Pant and Vijay Shankar had a task to finish, chasing 71 runs in nine overs for India’s first T20I win on Kiwi soil. Though new to the crease, the duo was bravely leading charge for Team India as the bowlers were being hit for boundaries at regular intervals.

Despite Shankar falling to Daryl in the 14th over, India’s cause was far from deterred as Pant and Dhoni comfortably took the team over the line with seven balls remaining. Owing to a superlative performance with the ball and bat, the Men in Blue made it 1-1 in the series and 3-7 in the overall T20I record against New Zealand.

The third T20I, the series-decider will be played on February 10 in Hamilton.