Talk about the combination of timing and power-hitting; Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan forged the highest partnership in Twenty20 International for India to give their side a 53-run victory over New Zealand in the first game and script a perfect farewell for Ashish Nehra at the Feroz Shah Kotla in Delhi on Wednesday (November 1).

Put in to bat, Rohit (80 off 55) and Dhawan (80 off 52) capitalised on their steady start before exploding in the later stages of the innings to form a record 158-run stand to help India post 202 for 3 in 20 overs. In the second half, a combined effort from Indian bowlers restricted New Zealand to 149 for 8 as they registered their first victory against the visiting side in seven attempts in this format.

Kane Williamson, the skipper, straightaway handed the ball to Mitchell Santner (0 for 30), the left-arm spinner who had demolished the strong Indian batting lineup with a four-wicket haul in the group match of the World T20 2016 in Nagpur. The opening duo of Rohit and Dhawan played the first over cautiously before opening their arms against Trent Boult (1 for 49), the left-arm seamer, in the second over.

Boult missed the mark on four occasions in his first 12 deliveries and paid for it as Dhawan sent all of them to the boundary ropes. He did offer a chance to the man at cover-point, but Santner failed to cling on to it. While Dhawan was doing the major chunk of scoring, Rohit was more sedate in his approach.

Apart for an upper-cut over third man and a lofted cover drive, Rohit made sure that Dhawan, who was looking in great touch, kept the majority of the strike in the first six overs. Rohit was even gifted a lifeline in the seventh over when Tim Southee, who usually has good hands, dropped a sitter at long-on.

The dew was always going to be a threat at the Kotla, and Colin de Grandhomme (0 for 34), the medium-pacer, struggled to grip his slower ones as he ended up bowling two waist-high full tosses in the ninth over. Meanwhile, playing his first game of the tour, Ish Sodhi, the legspinner, alongside Santner managed to get a fair amount of purchase from the surface.

Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma both hit 80, Dhawan slightly quicker than Rohit, to set up the Indian win. © BCCI

Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma both hit 80, Dhawan slightly quicker than Rohit, to set up the Indian win. © BCCI

Both the spinners made it tough for Rohit and Dhawan to score freely and the two were left with no other options than to go after the quick bowlers. In the process, Dhawan brought up his third T20I half-century and finally took the attack to Sodhi in his third over by smoking him for a couple of boundaries.

Highest opening stands in T20Is

Partners Runs Opposition Ground Year
Martin Guptill, Kane Williamson (New Zealand) 171* Pakistan Hamilton 2016
Graeme Smith and Loots Bosman (South Africa) 170 England Centurion 2009
Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan (India) 158 New Zealand Delhi 2017
Chris Gayle and Devon Smith (Windies) 145 South Africa Johannesburg 2007
Michael Lumb and Alex Hales (England) 143* New Zealand Wellington 2013

With Rohit far from his best, Dhawan almost took it upon himself to score a boundary or two in every over. Just when it looked like Rohit would go into a shell, the Mumbai batsman finally opened up in the 15th over. After smacking Santner over long-on for a six to bring up his 12th fifty in this format, he followed it up with a couple of fours to finally get out of that grove. The two also went past Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag’s record opening stand of 137 that came against England in Durban 2007.

The massive partnership finally came to an end in the 17th over when Sodhi returned to get rid of Dhawan who registered his highest T20I score with help of ten fours and two sixes. The ploy of sending Hardik Pandya didn’t work as he perished to Sodhi in the same over without troubling the score. The Ludhiana-born 24-year-old leggie finished with 2 for 25.

Kohli announced his homecoming with a ginormous six over long-on off de Grandhomme who can consider him unlucky after watching two simple catches go down off his bowling. Amidst the mayhem, Rohit was finally dismissed by Boult after almost a five-minute discussion between the on-field umpires and the third umpire. At first, Rohit was given not out as Nitin Menon opted to go upstairs after a fuller-length delivery passed Rohit’s bat closely. As it was an ‘umpire referral’, the UltraEdge was not used, resulting in Rohit being given not out. But Williamson decided to review that and got it overturned as a spike was clearly visible in the UltraEdge replay. Once at 46 off 40, Rohit blasted 34 runs off his next 12 deliveries to end with a strike-rate of 145.45, studded with six fours and four sixes.

India were always ahead, but Axar Patel's double-strike in the 13th over was the final nail for New Zealand. © BCCI

India were always ahead, but Axar Patel’s double-strike in the 13th over was the final nail for New Zealand. © BCCI

Kohli (26* off 11) and Mahendra Singh Dhoni (7* off 2) hit a couple of sixes in the final over to get India over the 200-mark.

India’s defence got off to a stunning start after Pandya pulled off a breathtaking catch off Yuzvendra Chahal’s (2 for 26) bowling at long-on to send Martin Guptill back for just four runs. Meanwhile, after being on the receiving end in the final One-Day International in Kanpur, Bhuvneshwar Kumar got his vengeance against Colin Munro as he castled him for 7.

Williamson dug his heels for a while before falling to Pandya. His 24-ball 28 hardly put any pressure on the home side as the required run-rate started to mount over 14 by the half-stage. Axar Patel then got rid of Tom Bruce (10 off 10) and de Grandhomme (nought) in the same over to reduce New Zealand to 84 for 5 in 13 overs.

New Zealand’s best batsman in the ODI series Tom Latham (39 off 36), Henry Nicholls (6), Southee (8) were left to climb the unachievable mountain and there was hardly anything the remaining batsmen could do. Coming in at No. 8, Santner stuck a few lusty blows en route to an entertaining 14-ball 27*.

For India, Chahal and Axar picked up two wickets apiece, while Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar, and Pandya had one each. Nehra, in his last match, finished with the figures of 0 for 29 but it was his football skills on the field, the ever-smiling face, and his victory lap that brought joy to the home crowd.