JANUARY 29, 2020
Brief Scorecard: India 179 for 5 (Rohit 65, Bennett 3-54) tied with New Zealand 179 for 6 (Williamson 95, Shami 2-32)
India won the Super Over
A slow pitch and batsmen rising above it. Hamilton was a theatre of shot-making and at the end of a game where neither team had the edge until a Super Over, India came away deserving winners.
Kane Williamson made this the classic it turned out to be, scoring 95 off 48 balls – 25 of those runs were made off the normally unhittable Jasprit Bumrah, at a time when the chase was becoming unbearably close – but his team-mates let him down. Walking off the field, with the equation reading two off three balls, he would never have imagined – even having endured that bizarro World Cup final – the events that followed.
Mohammed Shami, having started the 20th over giving away a six, beat Tim Seifert not once but twice with short and wide deliveries and then bowled Ross Taylor off the last ball of the match to force a tie.
So Williamson had to take the field again. He had to summon the unreal form that helped him whack Bumrah for five fours in 12 balls in normal time. And guess what? He did. A six over square leg, made by his moving around in this crease. A four down the ground, thanks a straight bat flying in the face of all that is holy in T20 cricket.
New Zealand made 17 in the Super Over against the best death bowler in the world. And in the end, the very end, it still wasn’t enough. Rohit Sharma had to hit two sixes off the last two balls of a ridiculous game and even under that pressure one of India’s greatest ever white-ball batsmen rose to the occasion and sent his fans – including those in the dressing room – to utter delirium.
Rohit’s Big Bash
India wanting to go hard while batting first is never more apparent than when Rohit, one of the greatest timers of a cricket ball ever, starts to look for the power shots. He nailed a cut shot in the first over, but that was just a batsman taking advantage of the width he was offered. The clearer indication of Rohit wanting to boss it came in the third over when he charged at Tim Southee. It resulted in zero runs but seeing a player who knows he can hit sixes without such luxuries go in search of them indicated both his and India’s mindset. They wanted a mammoth score. Rohit went on to become the first Indian to hit a half-century inside the Powerplay in a T20I, surging from 24 to 50 in the space of five Hamish Bennett deliveries that were whacked to the boundary back to back to back to back to back.
The slow pitch slowdown
Such high quality hitting made Hamilton seem like a batter’s paradise, but as soon as fielders could be put on its sizeable boundaries – Rohit had to clear 80m for a straight six – and New Zealand resorted to a consistent barrage of slower balls, the truth came to light. Even Rohit could only make only 15 off his last 17 deliveries before being dismissed by a change-up, Bennett’s knuckle ball giving him vindication.
Ish Sodhi was excellent in these conditions. He changed his pace virtually every ball so that he wouldn’t be lined up. He stuck tight on off stump when he wanted to build pressure, and then dangled one wide outside to try and get wickets. There were even times when he bowled with a round-arm action. Anything to stay unpredictable as he finished his spell with only two boundaries.
With Sodhi (4-0-23-0), Colin de Grandhomme (2-0-13-1) and Bennett recovering well (14 in his last two overs), New Zealand were battling back hard, but Ravindra Jadeja and Manish Pandey whacked Tim Southee for 18 runs in the final over to swing the game in India’s favour again.
Virtually all of his runs came in the period when it was extremely hard to bat. To do something like that, you have to be very good, very prepared and very tuned in.