As Colin Munro launched a heavy artillery firing at Rajkot, a fan posted the picture of a ‘Colin Glass Cleaner’ on Twitter. The accompanying message said: “just wiped and cleaned the Indian bowling attack”. Well, Munro does that in T20 cricket, when on song. His 58-ball 109 not out, with seven sixes and as many fours, wiped away the hosts in the second T20 international on Saturday.
This was Munro’s second T20 international hundred of the year. His 71-ball 101 against Bangladesh came in January. He now sits alongside Brendon McCullum, Chris Gayle and Evin Lewis—players with two T20 international hundreds. Lady Luck helped, though. Three catches were dropped and an easy run-out chance wasted. But Munro’s knock was still bewitching.
From a tail-ender in school cricket at Durban to one of the most fearsome hitters in white-ball cricket, Munro faced a bumpy ride. He even thought about “giving the game away”, when Auckland became iffy about offering him regular first-class cricket. Munro, along with his family, had migrated to New Zealand, when he was 15 years old. The Eden Park crowd didn’t readily embrace his batting style. Things changed gradually and after a blistering half-century at Eden Park that included 13 sixes, Munro was accorded the star status.
On the face of it, Munro’s ungainly, wide stance doesn’t inspire much confidence. He makes up for it with fabulous hand-eye coordination. His hockey background helps. Tonight at Rajkot, on a highway-like pitch, he freed his arms and swung merrily. The carnage began when he cut debutant pacer Mohammed Siraj for a four behind short point. A pull of Bhuvneshwar Kumar in the next over was gold standard. Virat Kohli introduced Yuzvendra Chahal and Martin Guptill, Munro’s opening partner, showed his experience. He took the game to the in-form leg-spinner, hitting a six, four and a six on the bounce. A potential threat was thus negated. With the ball nicely coming on to the bat, Guptill also allowed Munro face the seamers as much as possible.
Siraj returned for his second spell, bowled a slower delivery and Munro dispatched it over the long-on fence. Another slower ball was sent flying over the deep mid-wicket boundary. He was stepping on the gas. Kumar dropped Munro when he was on 36. Shreyas Iyer reprieved him on 45. Rohit let him off with a bad throw on 52. And Chahal dropped him when the left-hander was on 79. Amid all these, the batting blitz continued. Axar Patel was taken to the cleaners and Hardik Pandya was dealt with brute contempt. But Siraj, who conceded 53 runs in his four overs, was Munro’s favourite takeaway. His batting silenced the Rajkot crowd, but the hundred was warmly applauded. Siraj, incidentally, dismissed Kane Williamson to collect his maiden international scalp.
A 105-run opening partnership between Munro and Guptill laid the foundation for a 200-plus total. But India fought back towards the end through Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah. The latter at times bowled at 145kph and his yorkers thwarted a Kiwi charge at the death. On an unresponsive surface, Bumrah finished with 0/23 in four overs. Kumar brought out all his variations and conceded only 29 runs in his four overs.
A target of 197 looked gettable on this pitch but Trent Boult removed Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan in his first over. A lovely inswinger flattened Dhawan’s middle stump, as the batsman attempted a heave over mid-on. Rohit was done in by a back-of-a-length delivery that took the outside edge to the ‘keeper.
It paired up Kohli and Iyer. The Mumbai boy made his T20 international debut in Delhi but didn’t get an opportunity to bat. Here, under pressure, he looked the real deal. Boult was punched through point for a four. Colin de Grandhomme was effortlessly cut over short third man.
Kohli, at the other end, was playing a gem. He decimated Mitchell Santner. First, a full toss was caressed to the third man boundary. The left-arm spinner then tossed it up and invited the India captain. Kohli danced down the track and cleared the cover fielder. Next, he stood and delivered; a whip over long-on for a six.
From the visitors’ point of view, it was important to separate the master and the new-comer. And Munro, who else, did it, removing Iyer with a knuckleball. It left Kohli to play a lone-ranger. The skipper made a pristine 65 off 42 balls, with eight fours and one six. But he was fighting a losing battle.
Some back-end hitting improved MS Dhoni’s strike-rate but he struggled to get going initially. New Zealand didn’t mind. They took the series to a decider in Thiruvananthapuram.