New Zealand snatched a dramatic last-ball victory in the second Twenty20 cricket match to clinch the series 2-0 against India,who very nearly pulled off an incredible win in the dying moments of the thriller.
Chasing a modest 150 to win,the hosts were cruising along comfortable before the Indians changed the complexion of the game with some tidy spin bowling and Irfan Pathan’s double strike in the 18th over.
Needing 12 runs off Pathan’s last over,the Kiwis rode on Brendon McCullum’s unbeaten 69 to scrape through to record their third consecutive victory against the world champions.
The home team won the thrilling match by five wickets. The result of the ding-dong battle at Westpac stadium could have been different had substitute fielder Rohit Sharma latched on to a difficult catch off McCullum,which would have carried the game to the eliminator stage.
Put into bat,India’s formidable batting failed to click for the second time on the trot,leaving New Zealand with a fairly simple task of scoring 7.50 runs per over.
The New Zealand run chase began with a flourish with McCullum and Jesse Ryder (26) putting on a brisk 53-run partnership.
Ryder hoicked Irfan Pathan for a six in the very first ball and then hit Zaheer Khan for two fours in the next over as he played a cameo off 15 balls before being dismissed by Khan Indians were lucky to have their second wicket when Kiwi umpire Gary Baxter adjudged dangerous Martin Guptill (10) leg before off Harbhajan Singh despite a big inside edge.
Guptill went for a pull,missed the shot and Indians made a furious appeal. Baxter had a long look at it and surprised everyone by raising his finger,upholding the appeal.
Ravinder Jadeja,who replaced Rohit Sharma in the side,bowled in tandem with Harbhajan to put brakes on the Kiwi scoring rate.
With the spinners drying up the runs,the game gradually tilted towards India after Pathan’s twin blows left the home team with a difficult task of scoring 23 runs off 12 balls.
Pathan dismissed Taylor and Jacob Oram (0) on consecutive balls at the start of the 18th over,setting up an exciting climax to the match. Yuvraj Singh bowled the penultimate over and the slow left-armer dismissed Neil Broom but gave away 11 runs. Pathan then did extremely well by giving away just three runs in the first three balls but McCullum hit him for two consecutive fours to level the scores.
In the last ball Rohit Sharma dropped the difficult chance off McCullum much to the dismay of his team-mates. In the Indian innings,as in the first T20 at Christchurch the Indian top order collapsed like a pack of cards to bring the pressure on the middle order batsmen.
Virender Sehwag was at his belligerent best,savaging Tim Southee and Iain O’Brien at will. But he chanced his arms too often and offered a simple catch to Vettori at mid-off.
But Yuvraj Singh (50) and Mahendra Singh Dhoni (28 not out) returned India back into the game,posting a measured 45 runs for the fourth wicket.
Yuvraj was sedate at the start,but once he had his eye in,he went hammer and tongs,smashing Daniel Vettori for successive sixes.
He brought up his fourth half century in T20 cricket with a towering six off O’Brien. But the exuberant left hander perished off the next ball,slicing O’Brien to Jacob Oram at deep cover-point.
Ravindra Jadeja showed pluck on his T20 international debut,producing a 16-ball 19 under pressure. With the run-rate much below the expected target,Dhoni strove to cut loose in the end overs but the New Zealanders were up to the task,putting the ball in the right areas,often into the block hole.
Though they dropped a couple of difficult chances in the deep,their fielding was exceptional tonight,as they dived and pounced on the ball with great alacrity to cut off possible boundaries.