JANUARY 31, 2020
Brief Scorecard: India 165 for 8 (Pandey 50, Rahul 39, Sodhi 3-26) tied New Zealand 165 for 7 (Munro 64, Seifert 57, Thakur 2-33)
India won the Super Over
Seven runs needed off six balls. Seven wickets in hand. Ross Taylor, who has played more T20 matches than the rest of his side combined, on strike. Surely, New Zealand couldn’t lose from that kind of position again, right? Think again.
Having endured a mixed day with the ball until then, Shardul Thakur delivered a stunning final over to deny New Zealand in regulation time, as the hosts inexplicably lost four wickets in the space of six balls.
New Zealand then sent out Tim Seifert and Colin Munro, their half-centurions from earlier in the evening, to outsmart Jasprit Bumrah in the Super Over. In Hamilton, New Zealand failed to defend 17 in the shootout. Here, they scrambled to 13 after Shreyas Iyer and KL Rahul failed to latch on to skiers.
There, Tim Southee sat on haunches as Rohit Sharma muscled him for two sixes to win the game. On Friday, he took the ball again, this time trying to deny Rahul and Virat Kohli. He saw the first two balls being clobbered for 10, and had Rahul caught at deep square leg off the third. India needed four off three.
Where New Zealand slogged when faced with this equation in regulation time, Kohli calmly nudged the ball towards mid-on, who was right at the edge of the ring, to scramble back for a second with Sanju Samson. With two needed off two, Kohli lent the finishing touches with a muscular pull to the midwicket fence as India completed another remarkable win, to lead the series 4-0.
Southee was left heartbroken again, as were the New Zealand fans.
The final over mayhem
In Hamilton, the first ball off the final over was a juicy full toss that Taylor walloped over deep midwicket. Here, Thakur delivered an excellent slower ball. Taylor went for his favourite hitting arc but dragged it to Iyer in the deep.
But Daryl Mitchell eased the nerves by lofting the next ball over mid-off for four. Pressure relieved, right? Wrong. New Zealand were just entering into their nervous breakdown territory.
From three off four, they tried to steal a bye, only to be outsmarted by Rahul, who was ready with his gloves off to effect an underarm flick to catch Tim Seifert short after he had made what should have been a match-winning 57.
The pressure was on Mitchell Santner as he took strike. It was his superb catch off Kohli earlier in the evening that triggered a panic of sorts for India. His middle-order slow down with Ish Sodhi – they finished with four for 52 off eight overs – helped restrict India to 165. After all that, he still had to win it with the bat. With three needed off three, he picked a single towards midwicket and slipped while turning for the second.
Two runs. Two deliveries. The pressure is on the bowler. He misses by an inch and it could be curtains. Here, Thakur calmly lands a superb knuckleball on a length, gets it to deviate just a wee bit. Santner goes for a glory hit and slices it to Shivam Dube at mid-off. Mayhem. Tension.
In the IPL final last year, Thakur had faced a similar situation. Except, he was batting with Chennai Super Kings needing two off one ball for the championship. Lasith Malinga outsmarted him then with a slower ball. Does he now try and replicate that? It’s unlikely Thakur’s mind would’ve veered towards that game, but he delivers a superb wide yorker-length delivery. Santner can only jam it towards deep cover. New Zealand can’t scamper back for the second, and rue another meltdown.
What happened prior to that?
Six and out against Sri Lanka in Pune. Six and out against New Zealand in Wellington.
This was Sanju Samson’s opportunity to prove why he should have been an automatic pick on tour, and not as an injury replacement. However, the shot he played – a slog across the line in the third over after hitting the most gorgeous flick that there is – was forgettable. He had the full 20 overs at his disposal, but fell in the second.
Then the New Zealand spinners got into the act. Much before he came on to bowl, Santner left a mark in the fifth over. After Kohli had first flicked and then ramped Hamish Bennett for successive boundaries, Santner leaped towards his right to grab a leading edge and send back India’s captain.
Southee, leading in Kane Williamson’s absence, then turned to Sodhi in the seventh over and he struck off his third delivery to remove Iyer with a googly. Off his next over, he had Rahul holing out to deep midwicket for 34. He soon had his third when Shivam Dube was out slogging to long-on for 12. In arguably the windiest cricket-playing city, India weren’t done in by swing and seam, but loop and guile.
Pandey cashes in
At 88 for 6 in the 12th over, India needed Manish Pandey’s calmness over his unorthodox shot-making. When he walked off for an unbeaten half-century, they had been treated to a mix of both. Pandey played out the spinners calmly, took the innings deep, and trusted his lower-order colleagues. Thakur, especially, repaid that faith by walloping 20 important runs in a 43-run stand for the seventh wicket. Pandey’s was an industrious innings; he managed just thee fours, yet maintaining a healthy strike rate. He finished with 50 off 36, his third T20I half-century, to give India a lift.
Munro tees off
Early struggle against pace gave way to frenzied hitting from Colin Munro as he brought up a 38-ball half-century to set up New Zealand’s charge. Munro was particularly severe against Washington Sundar, who kept getting swept into the arc between deep square and deep midwicket. This allowed Seifert a chance to get his eye in. New Zealand needed 71 off 51, and with nine wickets in hand, victory was well in sight. Munro relaxed, and paid the price.
A combination of Kohli’s game awareness and rocket arm from the edge of the ring at cover helped run out Munro as he was ambling through for a second run. In the same over, Tom Bruce was bowled around his legs, deceived by Yuzvendra Chahal’s drift. The game turned, asking rate mounted and India applied the brakes. For all that, the game should’ve never gone into a Super Over. It did, and for that, New Zealand will have only themselves to blame.