New Zealand showed India that recording a series win against them is no easy task. The Kiwis first pummelled the Indian bowlers and then choked their batsmen to record a 40-run win in Rajkot. New Zealand have thus managed to stay alive in this series which stands at 1-1.
The visitors’ innings started off on such a solid note that it looked like they made lesser than what they could have, despite the fact that their final score was 196 for the loss of just two wickets. 109 of those 196 runs came from the willow of Colin Munro, who became the fourth batsman after Brendon McCullum and West Indies duo Chris Gayle and Evin Lewis to hit two T20I hundreds.
Munro and Guptill put up a 105-run opening partnership. Most of their runs were made at the cost of debutant Mohammed Siraj. Siraj may have taken the wicket of New Zealand captain Kane Williamson but that will come as little comfort to him as he conceded 53 runs in four overs. Guptill was sent back by Yuzvendra Chahal but only after smashing him all around the park.
It was evident during the New Zealand innings that the ball was coming to the bat very well and the short boundary only helped those with the pads and willow. In reply, India would have relied on their openers to do the job but Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan, who had struck up a 158-run partnership in the first T20I in Delhi, failed to get going. Trent Boult swooped and made a terrible mess of the wickets behind Dhawan. He then lured Rohit Sharma into pushing a back of a length delivery, only to nick it to the wicketkeeper.
Virat Kohli and Shreyas Iyer then took on the bowlers, including Boult and brought a semblance of stability to the innings. But the damage had been done by then. This was a T20 match and India had got off to a bad start chasing a target of 197. After the first two wickets fell, the chase was more of India playing catch up. Iyer hit a four off the very first ball he had faced in international cricket. In fact it was only when Kohli and Iyer were batting that India looked to be on course. The rather unlikely duo managed to pace the innings well and for a while, it looked like India’s perceived invincibility may stand at the end of this match.
But it was only a momentary reprieve for the hosts as centurion Colin Munro dismissed Shreyas Iyer, taking a catch off his own bowling. Hardik Pandya then came in and there was a wave of anticipation around the SCA stadium. Pandya and Kohli were in the middle, two of the most aggressive batsmen in the team. Pandya fended off Munro, he then tried to fend off Ish Sodhi. The googly took him by surprise and he was left staring at the dislodged bails behind him.
After that, the choke was on. MS Dhoni came in and he was unable to connect no matter what. Kohli was able to do that and so New Zealand did everything to keep Dhoni on strike. By this time, even a single dot ball was having a big effect on the required run rate and Dhoni ended up conceding quite a few consecutively with a couple of sixes in between. Mitchell Santner then managed to get Kohli himself and India’s loss was confirmed. Axar Patel was then dismissed and MS Dhoni was the last to go for India. The veteran wicketkeeper was one short of what would have been the most pointless 50 in his career.
India’s dominance throughout the year at home made their win in the first T20I at Delhi look like a routine affair. But the fact remains that New Zealand had won all five of the matches that the two sides played against each other before that. This loss now means that the third T20I to be played at Thiruvananthapuram becomes an exciting decider.