FEBRUARY 2, 2020
Brief Scorecard: India 163 for 3 (Rohit 60 retired hurt, Rahul 45, Kuggeleijn 2-25) beat New Zealand 156 for 9 (Taylor 53, Seifert 50, Bumrah 3-12, Saini 2-23)
Local boy Kane Williamson sat out of the Mount Maunganui T20I, and Ross Taylor made a half-century in his 100th T20I in front of his family, but New Zealand still botched another match that they should’ve won. India had rested their regular captain Virat Kohli and their stand-in captain Rohit Sharma retired hurt on 60, after hurting his left calf, but Jasprit Bumrah and co. helped India rally and secure a 5-0 whitewash.
After Taylor had provided a throwback to his IPL heyday and shellacked 34 runs along with Tim Seifert in a Shivam Dube over, New Zealand needed 66 off 60 balls to pull one back in the series. This time they couldn’t even take it into a Super Over and by the time Ish Sodhi launched a pair of sixes in the last over, the game was all but up.
Once Navdeep Sani had Seifert flapping a catch to midwicket for 50, New Zealand suffered another irreparable collapse, losing 6 for 25. After cramping Seifert for room, Saini returned to have a leg-side happy Taylor snicking behind for 53 off 47 balls. Bumrah, as is the norm these days, also played a crucial hand in India’s victory, yorking Daryl Mitchell and Tim Southee at the death.
Rahul in the thick of the action
Not too long ago, KL Rahul was a mere Mr.Fix it in India’s line-up, but he has now established himself as one of the key figures in India’s white-ball sides. Although he slowed down against spin, he made it to 45 off 33 balls, and closed out the series with 224 runs in five innings at an average of 56 and strike rate of just a shade under 145.
After Sanju Samson (2) opened once again and threw away another opportunity, Rahul set the early pace, cracking Tim Southee for three boundaries in the third over, the pick of them being an exquisite lofted six over extra-cover. By the end of the Powerplay, Rahul claimed 33 off India’s 53.
Spinners Ish Sodhi and Mitchell Santner then tied him down in the middle overs with their clever variations in length and pace. From 33 off 17 balls, Rahul managed a mere 12 off his next 16 balls. As a result, he went searching for a scoring opportunity against Hamish Bennett and wound up scooping a leading edge to extra-cover.
Rahul, though, wasn’t done yet. He put in another fine shift behind the stumps and juggled it with the additional responsibility of captaincy after Sharma had injured himself and didn’t take the field in the second innings. By the stroke of midnight, Rahul was soaking in India’s 5-0 win as their captain.
Injury cuts short a potential Sharma special
After challenging India to bat first, Sharma followed a familiar template: he took his time to get his eye in and then unfurled a variety of strokes. He was on 19 off 20 balls at one point, but found a higher gear when he carved Sodhi’s front-of-the-hand flipper for four. In the next over, he heaved a long-hop from Santner into the stands beyond midwicket. Sharma took Sodhi for two sixes, and progressed to his fifty off 35 balls. Just when he threated to go bananas, he seemed to have hurt his calf while running between the wickets and hobbled off the field in the 17th over. India were 140 for 2 at that point.
Southee’s good lengths = bad lengths
After conceding 23 runs in the Powerplay, Southee brought himself back at the death, and leaked 29 in his last two. He routinely missed his lengths and allowed India to breach 160. When Southee missed his straight yorker in the last over, Manish Pandey shovelled him over long-on for six. When Southee missed the wide yorker, Pandey scythed him over point for four.
Another chapter in NZ’s horror story
Colin Munro gave New Zealand’s chase of 164 some early impetus when he slugged Washington Sundar for two fours and a six. However, Washington shifted his angle of attack to over the wicket, cramped Munro for room, and bowled him for 15 off 6 balls. Martin Guptill had been the first to go, for 2, when Bumrah pinged him on the back thigh – although ball-tracking revealed later that it would have bounced over leg stump.
Seventeen for 2 became 17 for 3, when a panic-stricken mix-up saw Tom Bruce lose his wicket for a second successive duck. Seifert and Taylor then revived the chase by putting on 99 in 56 balls. After settling in, Seifert unveiled the sweep against Yuzvendra Chahal and then scooped Dube for four.
At the other end, Taylor got his hockey-swipes going, with 38 of his 53 runs coming on the leg side. However, Seifert’s dismissal triggered a terminal slide and there would be no way back for New Zealand again.
For India, their spinners Washington and Chahal bowled an over each at the death and didn’t give up a single boundary. Shardul Thakur eventually defended 20 off the final over to prolong New Zealand’s misery.