Ross Taylor has been on the international circuit since 2006, Kane Williamson since 2010. Together, they must have seen a few generations of New Zealand batsmen come and go. But judging by what happened at Eden Park, Auckland, on Sunday, if the big two don’t fire for the Kiwis, there’s precious little to fall back upon.
Take the openers, Martin Guptill and Colin Munro. They got the team to a rapid start in the first T20I, but with the Indian bowlers getting their act together on Sunday, they cut a sorry figure. Given the unique dimensions of the venue, the scoring rates achieved by the home batsmen put them way behind the game, even on a not-so-flat pitch. Unsurprisingly, it hardly tested the Indian batsmen, who overhauled the grossly inadequate 132 at the loss of three wickets with 15 balls to spare. It shows a team full of confidence that feels at home in all conditions.
Out of depth
Munro and Guptill have been opening in T20s for some time now, but days when they have dominated quality bowling attacks have been few and far between. When the Indian bowlers denied him room and bowled a bit short at him, Munro was reduced to slogging and hacking, that too rather unsuccessfully.
There is a reason Guptill has failed to cut it as a Test player. He is repeatedly found wanting against top bowlers when the pitch offers something or the boundaries are bigger than postage stamp-size. He is a clean striker of the ball alright, but when the ball deviates from the straight, he is often exposed.
The short boundaries and some initial luck ensured that some mishits cleared the rope while a few others evaded the fielders. But even then, the Kiwis could manage just 48 in the Powerplay.
Bowlers in inspired form
When the openers were put out of their misery, the old guard – Williamson and Taylor – had the responsibility to take the team to a substantial score. But they were up against an attack which refused to give anything away.
The Eden Park can be a difficult place to bowl spin at, but don’t tell that to Ravindra Jadeja. The left-arm spinner got some turn from a wicket where the ball was stopping a bit, and gave just 18 runs in four overs and didn’t concede a single boundary.
Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami were at their miserly best and gave only 21 and 22 runs in their completed spells. Shami bowled half his spell in the Powerplay and Bumrah – whom Craig McMillan described on air as the most complete death bowler in the world – dumbfounded the Kiwi batsmen in the 18th and 20th overs which together went for just 12 runs. His mixture of yorkers, slower balls and bouncers were too much for batsmen trying to tee off at the end of the innings.
The Indian bowlers’ prowess and control puts in perspective the struggles of Williamson (14 in 20 balls, no boundaries) and Taylor (18 in 24 balls, no boundaries). In fact, after the ninth over, the New Zealanders had to wait till the 16th to find the fence. The two veterans between them have monopolised all the Kiwi batting records in all formats, or will do so in the future. But the way they were made to struggle in their home conditions pointed to the gulf between the two sides – Taylor lapping Shami on to his face rather indicative of their struggles.
Compare and contrast
It was the second game in three nights in which the most telling contribution from an Indian bat didn’t come from either Rohit Sharma or Virat Kohli. KL Rahul and Shreys Iyer took it upon themselves to get the job done when the score read 39/2 in the sixth over with 94 needed off 88 balls on a pitch that offered something to the bowlers.
Rahul and Iyer milked the spinners – Ish Sodhi and Mitchell Santner – without taking any risks. It helped that the two bowlers hardly try to spin the ball and were intent on not going for too many even when the situation demanded a more ambitious approach. They are used to bowling when their batsmen put on a big score and anything under eights runs an over is a good effort. Santner did manage to keep Iyer and Rahul quite – even though it seemed it was the batsmen’s choice – but Sodhi did neither job.
New Zealand are missing Trent Boult and Lockie Ferguson from their pace attack, and apart from the excellent Tim Southee – who accounted for both Sharma and Kohli – there was nowhere Williamson could go for some potency and accuracy. Blair Tickner and Hamish Bennett tried to unsettle the Indians with some pace and bounce, but are far from finished articles yet.
When one or more of the Indian pacers are unavailable, there is an able replacement who comes in and doesn’t let the team down – for example Navdeep Saini. New Zealand have a much smaller pool of players to choose from, which may explain their predicament.
Next Gen oozes class
It takes nothing away from the partnership between Rahul and Iyer, in which they were totally in control and played according to the situation. Realising that the asking rate was never a concern, they kept rotating strike and opened their shoulders when set.
A Rahul swivel pull off Bennett and an upper cut for six caught the eye as he reached a second successive half-century, staying till the end when Shivam Dube hit a pulled six wide of long-on. Iyer took a liking for Sodhi and deposited him over the long-on fence, before getting out trying for a repeat.
The next game of the five-match series is in Hamilton on Wednesday and skipper Kohli would be delighted at the manner in which his bowlers improved upon their show on Friday and how the below-par target was achieved with a minimum of fuss. In contrast, the road seems all uphill for the hosts.
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