After a brave fight by the Kiwis in the ODI series, a lot was expected of the T20 series which followed. For India, it was about taking the next step forward in “Mission number one”. For New Zealand, it was about showing why they were number one in T20s. The battle that ensued did not disappoint.
FIRST T20– INDIAN OPENERS WREAK HAVOC AT THE KOTLA
Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan carried their good form forward as they notched up eighty-a-piece with a belligerent opening stand. Some late fireworks from skipper Kohli saw India post a mammoth 202 on the board. The Kiwis, in return, replied with a dainty 149-8 where there was never any momentum. Axar Patel and Chahal scalped two each with the former picking up 2/20. Symbolically so, the last over of the game turned out to be the last over of Ashish Nehra’s international career, as he bid adieu in his home ground. This was the first ever T20 win for India against New Zealand.
SECOND T20– NEW ZEALAND (MUN)ROW PAST INDIA
The Kiwis opted to bat in a predictably flat Rajkot pitch and got off to a flyer. Guptill and Munro notched up a 105 run stand. Some lusty blows and a bit of luck helped Munro get to his second T20 century. If not for some wonderful death bowling, the Kiwis would’ve ended up with a lot more than 196 on the board. In reply, India lost both their openers to a fired up Boult. Virat Kohli showed great tenacity as he found ways to score on a pitch which had slowed down. Wickets fell in regular intervals after which MS Dhoni found it hard to get going. Kohli’s wicket falling cemented a victory everyone knew was coming for a long time, as they beat India with 40 runs to spare. Boult picked up 4/34 as the Kiwis handed the hosts their third biggest defeat in T20s.
THIRD T20– A LITERAL HIGH OCTANE CLASH
Trivandrum became the 50th international venue and it couldn’t have asked for a better setting. But this gust of excitement was interrupted by the gusty rains predicted. The series decider was shortened to just 8 overs a side. The pitch proved difficult to bat on as the openers stumbled. India managed to sputter to a 67 courtesy of handy boundaries. The Kiwis struggled to get going too, as India’s new ball attack set the tone perfectly. The spinners tightened the noose, with Chahal showing remarkable control for a leggie bowling with the wet ball. With 19 needed off the last over, Colin De Grandhomme huffed and puffed but couldn’t replicate what the other Colin did well- clear the boundary. India had won this nail- biting clincher by 6 runs. The Indian pacers kept the average pace under 120kph utilising the slowness of the pitch better, showing great panache in a do-or-die situation.
Most runs: Colin Munro– 123 runs with a strike rate of 170.83
Most wickets: Trent Boult– 6 wickets at an economy rate of 9.60
Man of the series: Jasprit Bumrah– 3 wickets at an economy of 6.90
Fifth umpire champion of the series: Ish Sodhi with 5 wickets at an economy rate of 7.3
India goes down as winners after a truly magnificent series. Their heavy reliance on the top three bore fruit as they shared 284 runs in between them, a massive 67% of the total runs scored by India in the series. As for the Kiwis, Munro’s special ton was overshadowed by a pacey Boult who picked up 6 wickets in three games at an average of 16. Ish Sodhi’s performance with 5 wickets at strangulating rates for the batsmen is also a major takeaway.
INDIA: TRANSCENDING CLASS
India is known for producing flamboyant batsmen who can take the game away, but what seems to be their biggest find recently is Jasprit Bumrah who bagged the man of the series award for his exemplary performance. He would have a lot to thank the retired Ashish Nehra for, who was also responsible for the revamp of India’s bowling when he made a comeback and spearheaded the pace attack in the shortest format. The batting fired on all cylinders as always with Virat Kohli scoring the most runs for the hosts with 104 runs. The Indian fielding stepped up in the third game, after a creaky showing at Rajkot, where they were in a hurry to gift runs to Munro. The series put on show the wonderful tenacity India have in their ranks. Throwing in Shreyas Iyer into the race for a middle order spot has further intensified India’s search for a suitable candidate.
NEW ZEALAND: CHAMPION CHALLENGERS
After the surprisingly close turn of events in the ODI series, it’d have been foolish to rule out the Kiwis turning in another good series. Champions by rank, they travelled to the subcontinent as challengers. While they may not have unanimously succeeded, they caused trouble, handing India a deflating loss in the second T20. Trent Boult’s resurgence after a poor showing in the IPL, set the tone for the Kiwi bowling as they turned in a great performance. Sodhi and Santner looked good bowling in tandem, and the supporting bowlers in Grandhomme and Munro looked safe options. Although, the talismanic Williamson had a timid tour, Munro’s explosive potential is the biggest positive the Kiwis take away.Kiwis though need a genuine allrounder or must bank on Grandhomme and Santner to fill in Corey Anderson’s extra large shoes. They meant business right from the practice games and it showed. With a little bit of experience, this side could beat anyone on their day.
The Indian setup has been highly vocal about the Kiwis’ “never backdown” attitude. As the Black caps leave the Indian shores, they leave behind a strong tale of resilience and grit. The likes of Latham, Sodhi and Santner have impressed and perhaps have sown seeds for a lucrative IPL contract.