FEBRUARY 8, 2019
Brief Scorecard: India 162 for 3 (Rohit 50, Pant 40*) beat New Zealand 158 for 8 (de Grandhomme 50, Taylor 42, Krunal 3-28) by seven wickets
AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND – It wasn’t quite an edge-of-the-seat thriller, but a stream of India fans – upwards of 12,000 – who made Eden Park seem more like Eden Gardens went home happy as India levelled the T20I series in style, along the way recording their first T20I win in New Zealand.
In what was a largely straightforward chase of New Zealand’s 158 for 8, made possible only because of a 77-run stand between Colin de Grandhomme and Ross Taylor, Rohit Sharma became the highest run-getter in T20Is during the course of his 29-ball 50. Then Rishabh Pant demonstrated brute force and a calm head in MS Dhoni’s company as India won by seven wickets with seven balls to spare.
That India now have a chance of completing their long summer in the southern hemisphere without a series loss was largely due to fine bowling efforts by Krunal Pandya and Khaleel Ahmed. Their eight overs in Wellington cost a combined 85 in exchange for two late scalps. On Friday in Auckland, the pair did more than just a bit to trigger a reversal; their combined figures reading five wickets for 55 runs in eight overs. This proved to be the difference as New Zealand posted 14 less than the T20I average of 172 at the oddly shaped Eden Park with short straight boundaries.
With the new ball, Khaleel extracted zip off the pitch to deny Tim Seifert any room at the start, and Bhuvneshwar Kumar cashed in. Khaleel bowled four successive dot balls to the wicketkeeper-batsman in the second over, leaving him frustrated. And in the third over, Bhuvneshwar had him nick one to MS Dhoni off a wild slog.
Then, brought in to bowl the final over, Khaleel varied his lengths and pace to concede just five to deny New Zealand a final flourish.
The other bowling star – the other Pandya – quickly left an imprint on the game with a double-strike in the sixth over. After having the dangerous Colin Munro smash one straight to cover, he had a controversial lbw call go his way when Daryl Mitchell appeared to have got a thin inside edge on to the pad. New Zealand’s problems compounded further when Kane Williamson missed a straight ball to be trapped plumb in front to leave them 50 for 4 after eight overs.
De Grandhomme makes a splash
If he was on a mission to dispel notions of being a bad player of spin, de Grandhomme didn’t do too badly. Among the things he did right was reading Yuzvendra Chahal’s googlies and then pummeling him for a sequence of 6,4,6 in the 11th over.
The straight hit to clear the short boundary was his best stroke, but the real sign of him being in top gear shone through as he lofted Chahal inside-out to clear deep extra cover.
Seeing the batsman ready to tee off, Chahal tried to bowl wide, only to see de Grandhomme hold his shape and time one off the middle of the bat. Krunal wasn’t spared either; his figures of 3 for 28 could have been much better if not for the back-to-back sixes carted by de Grandhomme in the 12th over. He eventually fell after getting to a 27-ball 50, but gave Taylor a platform to set himself up for the final surge.
The master and the apprentice finish the job
Supposedly auditioning for a World Cup middle-order berth by batting in the top order in T20Is, Pant didn’t do his credentials any harm. Of course it’s a far easier proposition having to walk in after the openers have made 79 in 9.2 overs. Pant’s timing wasn’t sublime and there were two mishits that could have gone to hand another day. But the ferocity of his shot-making wasn’t to be missed.
Then, with Vijay Shankar gone and MS Dhoni walking in to a run-a-ball situation with a little over six overs to play, Pant traded big swipes for deft touches to milk runs and see India home.