To bounce back from big defeats against India in India has proven to be a highly daunting ask in recent times, but New Zealand checked all the boxes en route a series levelling 40-run win in the second Twenty20 International at the Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium in Rajkot on Saturday (November 4).
First Colin Munro rode his luck to score his second T20I hundred and drive New Zealand to an impressive 196 for 2, and then the bowlers delivered collectively to restrict India to 156 for 7 despite Virat Kohli’s valiant 41-ball 65.
Trent Boult (4 for 34) set the tone for the defence, removing Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan, the openers who took the game away from the visitors in Delhi with a record 153-run stand, in his very first over – the second of the innings. Dhawan had his timber disturbed with an inswinger, while Rohit nicked an angled away delivery to the ‘keeper.
Kohli and Shreyas Iyer then attacked the fast bowlers and scored a flurry of boundaries, despite which India were kept to 40 runs in the Power Play. Just when it looked like the home side were starting to build some momentum, the slower bowlers wrested it back for New Zealand.
Iyer started well against the pacers with deft punches on the off-side, but got stifled by the slower bowlers, and was removed by Munro for a 21-ball 23 when he skied a slog straight back to the bowler. Hardik Pandya suffered another failure, getting cleaned up by a sharp Ish Sodhi (1 for 25) googly that also kept a tad low.
The dismissal then brought MS Dhoni to the crease treating Rajkot to the sight of India’s two most popular cricketers at the crease and the buzz was tangible even though the home side found themselves in hot water at 67 for 4 in 9.1 overs, leaving them with 130 runs to get in 65 balls.
As he often does, Kohli fed off the energy of the crowd and displayed a range of strokes across the ground. A straight drive off Munro, a six to long-on after stepping out to Mitchell Santner (1 for 31), and a powerful flick to deep midwicket powered with strong bottom hand off Munro again being the standout shots.
But Dhoni failed to keep up the momentum at the other end, although he managed to hammer Sodhi for two massive hits over deep midwicket. The asking rate continued to mount and Kohli finally succumbed, nicking Santner behind.
Dhoni found some form later in the innings, but the match had gone well out of reach by that point. He finally fell for a 37-ball 49 in the last over, miscuing a pull to Santner at short midwicket off Boult, capping off a great day for the left-arm seamer.
In the first innings, Munro looked in good touch from the onset. He peppered the quicks with well-timed jabs as well as powerful hits when opportunities were available.
Yuzvendra Chahal, who has impressed with metronomic accuracy and guile throughout the tour, was put to the sword in his first over by Martin Guptill, the right-hand opener tonking two big sixes and a boundary.
But he bounced back commendably from that setback and adjusted his areas to suit the nature of the surface. He pulled his lengths back a tad and mixed his typical flighted deliveries with flatter ones. Although Guptill managed to put him away for another big six some doubts were planted. In his final over, he was rewarded with a wicket as Guptill skied an attempted slog to long-on. Chahal finished with 1 for 36 in four overs.
Munro motored along all this while, but not without a generous helping of luck. He was given two reprieves. First Bhuvneshwar Kumar couldn’t hold on to a tough chance off Chahal’s bowling at the deep midwicket fence, although he must be given credit for saving five runs. Shreyas Iyer then dropped a fairly easy chance at long-on and to make matters worse, parried the ball over the boundary rope to offer Munro the six runs to get past his fifty. There was a missed run out chance when Rohit Sharma fired a misdirected throw at the striker’s end which Dhoni was unable to collect cleanly, allowing Munro to make his ground.
Kane Williamson looked in good touch while he was in the middle, but was removed for a nine-ball 12 failing to get enough power behind a flick shot. On an otherwise bleak debut outing for Mohammed Siraj, the wicket of the New Zealand captain salvaged some pride. He ended up conceding 53 runs in his four overs.
Munro then received another reprieve when Chahal wasn’t able to hold on to a chance running behind from cover off Bhuvneshwar’s bowling, and went on to bring up his hundred.
Tom Bruce (18 off 12) played a small cameo to add some more impetus to New Zealand’s innings, while Munro remained unbeaten on 109 off 58 balls. Jasprit Bumrah finished well to concede just 23 from his four overs. Bhuvneshwar, his new-ball partner, was second-most economical conceding 29 in his full quota.
But the effort proved well inadequate in the end, taking the series to the decider.