Seifert, Southee keep India winless in NZ

India and New Zealand, both the teams lined up at the Westpac Stadium with fresh faces in the playing XI. Rohit Sharma led the Indian team that saw the Pandya brothers playing in the same international game for the first time. The Kiwis saw the in-coming of Tim Seifert, Daryl Mitchell and Scott Kuggeleijn.

Winning the toss, India opted to bowl first. Although the first over from Bhuvneshwar Kumar kept the Blackcaps on the prudent side, Colin Munro did not take time to get going as he was seen in full swing against Khaleel Ahmed. With 9, 15 and 16 in three successive overs, the Kiwi openers were off to a flying start.

Forcing India to make a change in bowling duties, the Blackcaps were 54/0 after five overs. Both Hardik and Krunal went for runs as the Munro-Seifert duo looked relentless in the powerplay. Krunal got a thick outside edge off Seifert which was spilt by Dhoni behind the stumps though it was a difficult chance.

With a blend of timing, power-hitting and unorthodox shot selection, Seifert reached his maiden T20I in the ninth over.

In the same over, Krunal produced the big breakthrough as Munro was on his way out after a quick-fire 34. Krunal slowed it down, forced Munro to miscue the ball to Vijay Shankar at long-on.

With Kane Williamson new to the crease, Seifert was holding fort at the other end with a barrage of relentless hitting. Be it against Chahal or Krunal, the opener was proving to be a menace for Team India as the hosts looked comfortable at 127/1 after 12 overs. Krunal was unlucky for the second time when Dinesh Karthik dropped a sitter to hand Seifert his second life.

In the 13th over, Khaleel brought respite to the Men in Blue as the prized wicket of Seifert was in the bag. After his highest T20I score – a scintillating 84 – the opener was sent to the shed with the Kiwis in a commanding position.

The smooth spell of Kiwi runs was impeded as they lost two more wickets in quick succession. A fantastic effort in the field by Dinesh Karthik and a skidding full delivery by Chahal got debutant Daryl Mitchell and the well-set Williamson out respectively.

Despite the fall of wickets in the death overs, the Indian bowlers never completely managed to shut the floodgates of the Kiwi runs. The hosts posted an intimidating 219, the joint-second highest total conceded by India in T20Is.

The Indian chase started on a confident note as Shikhar Dhawan found the fence on three occasions against Scott Kuggeleijn in the second over. However, Tim Southee hit India hard as on a rare occasion the Hitman failed to execute the pull shot, finding the hands of Lockie Ferguson.

At 18/1, a surprise choice at number three, Vijay Shankar walked into the middle with Dhawan who was dispatching the ball out of the park at will. Kuggeleijn succumbed to the quality batting of Shankar whose sweet timing led to the bowler conceding 34 runs in two overs.

Another blow came India’s way as Ferguson’s 151 kmph yorker rattled Dhawan to change the course of the game. Rishabh Pant, coming in after being rested for India’s ODIs Down Under, hardly looked in rhythm as he fell to Mitchell Santner’s full-delivery. Two balls later, Santner struck again as the on-song Shankar departed for an 18-ball 27.

In the 11th over, Dinesh Karthik and Hardik met the same fate to Ish Sodhi’s bowling with India struggling at 77/6. Sodhi continued his fine form against India in T20Is, making it eight wickets in only his fifth match. Even with specialist finisher – MS Dhoni – and Krunal in the middle, chasing 143 in nine overs was beyond India’s reach.

Despite the 52-run stand between Dhoni and Krunal, India lacked the firepower that a target like 220 demanded. The wickets kept falling at regular intervals as the Indian batting bundled out for 139.

The Men in Blue were handed their biggest defeat in T20Is as the Tim Seifert-inspired Kiwis came out as clear winners in the contest.

The second T20I will be played in Auckland on February 8, as India still look for their first win against the Blackcaps in the shortest format of the game on the Kiwi soil.