Near-perfect India stumble, but find enough firepower to take 1-0 lead against valiant New Zealand

Mayank Kumar

Mayank Kumar

Author| Nov 17, 5:57 PM

Image: Twitter
Image: Twitter

What was looking like a seamless chase of 165 runs was turned upside down with regular wickets by New Zealand bowlers at the fag end of the Indian innings. The Men in Blue were forced to work hard for a win in the first T20I of the series in Jaipur. 

Chasing 165 runs, the hosts needed just 38 runs from the last 30 balls and they were blessed with the presence of a sublime Suryakumar Yadav, who was hitting shots on will, and Rishabh Pant, who was willing to put his wicket on the line. 

But, soon Suryakumar was dismissed by Trent Boult, who was having a rare bad day in office, and Shreyas Iyer’s inability to time the ball from word go made the game interesting to an extent that the men in blue needed as many as 10 runs off the final six deliveries.

However, there was a relief for the hosts as the debutant Venkatesh Iyer found a boundary on his first ball in international cricket and later Pant belted Daryl Mitchell over the top when needing three runs of the final three balls to take the men in blue home.

India were never out of the game while chasing what appeared to be a below-par total on a truly flat surface at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium and the form of all the top three batsmen—KL Rahul, Rohit Sharma and Suryakumar Yadav gave them a brilliant platform with the bat.

The openers started the chase on a usual cautious note but the inaccuracies of Tim Southee helped his counterpart to latch on to some easy boundaries and 15 runs in the third over and set the stage for India. 

His long-time partner Trent Boult, too, was not any mercy and both Rahul and Rohit pulverised him with brutal pull shots that sailed over the fence at the square leg.

New Zealand were lucky to get Rahul on a rank long hop but Rohit carried on his merry way along with Suryakumar, who got his favoured number three position in the absence of Virat Kohli. Rohit’s weakness against leg spinners have been well documented and Southee tried to exploit that part of weakness. However, Todd Astle was to inaccurate to trouble Rohit and the Indian skipper was also lucky to get away with one miscued attempt of an uppish drive.

Suryakumar was belligerent as always against the spinners and he dismissed Astle from his presence on two occasions although he did not get hold of it completely.

Rohit was dismissed by Boult when the skipper tried to take him on a short ball but could not pick the change in pace after a well made 36-ball 48. After his departure, Suryakumar reached his third fifty in only seventh T20 Internationals and provided India with a perfect platform to seal the deal, which was eventually closed by Pant albeit in a far pressure situation than they would have liked.

Earlier, Rohit was the lucky captain at the toss and he invited the Tim Southee-led Blackcaps to bat first. 

Bhuvneshwar Kumar heard the call from the captain and produced a jaffa that was missing from his armoury in the T20 World Cup and sneaked through a shaky defence of Daryl Mitchell for a first-ball duck.

The next man in, Mark Chapman took some time to get into the groove and so did Martin Guptill, who appeared to be batting with the purpose of holding the New Zeland innings together. Chapman started teeing off after getting his eyes in and he got stuck into Deepak Chahar.

The final over of the powerplay produced 15 runs as both Guptill and Chapman punished Chahar for his error in both line and length and New Zealand were up and running with a decent score of 41/1 by the end of the field restriction.

Ravichandran Ashwin employed all his tricks to flummox both Guptill and Chapman but the pacers at the other end were going for plenty. Chapman produced a fifty that powered New Zealand towards a par score but he was soon undone by a brilliant piece of off-spin bowling by Ashwin. The champion spinner was not done there and he made Glenn Phillips look like a poor batsman on a carrom ball and pegged the Blackcaps just when they were looking to take the game away.

Meanwhile, Guptill picked up pace and started hitting big sixes for which he has been known for in the international cricket. However, his heroics was cut short by Shreyas Iyer off the bowling of Chahar, who finally got the moment to cherish in an otherwise tough game.

No other batsmen could build on the foundation led by Guptill and Chapman as Indians kept chipping away at wickets and the tourists could muster only 164 runs in their 20 overs which was clearly 15-20 runs short of where they were heading when the duo was batting in the middle.

India would cherish the victory as they produced a near-perfect performance both with the bat and ball but New Zealand should not be too disappointed at the loss considering the valiant fight they put while bowling and their batting falling short while trying to go for big and quick runs.

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