Three days after competing in the T20 World Cup final, New Zealand had to face India in their backyard. With a couple of their key players unavailable, the visitors gave it their all but India proved to be too strong for them.
Entering a new era under the head coach Rahul Dravid and newly appointed T20 captain Rohit Sharma, India claimed a five-wicket victory in the series opener. They followed it up with a seven-wicket hammering in the second to bag the series. The third T20I victory was even sweeter as India did it by setting the target batting first and defending it without their frontline pacer.
The packed crowd at Eden Gardens saw India bat first and post a good total of 184/7 on the back of Rohit Sharma’s 56 off 31. Indian bowlers were exceptional in the second innings, Axar Patel in particular, as they bowled the Kiwis out for 111 to claim a 73-run victory.
Here are the talking points from the third T20I between India and New Zealand:
Giving opportunities to newer players
With the next T20 World Cup less than a year away and the series already in the pocket, all the focus in the third T20I was around India’s approach. Whether they will experiment by batting first and give opportunities to other players. How they will approach the team construction for the WC in Australia was a major talking point for this game.
As it turned out, they chose to bat first after winning the third consecutive toss. The hosts rested KL Rahul and brought in Ishan Kishan, for whom the management thinks opening is the best slot. Yuzvendra Chahal, who was dropped for the world cup, received an opportunity in place of Ravichandran Ashwin. The 2021 Indian T20 League Orange Cap winner Ruturaj Gaikwad and promising fast bowler Avesh Khan were notable omissions. Especially Avesh, considering the Australian decks, was a huge miss from the team to not try out.
Flying start from the Indian openers
Rohit Sharma and his Mumbai partner Ishan Kishan got India off to an incredible start. The Kiwi spearhead Trent Boult swung the new ball and even enduced a couple of errors but the Indian openers made the most of powerplay restrictions.
Rohit and Ishan posted 69 runs in the first six overs, with the former blasting 39* off 17 and the latter scoring 29* off 19. The duo hammered 10 fours and three sixes in the powerplay itself, providing India a great platform.
Mitchell Santner strikes back with quick wickets
After conceding a huge powerplay, NZ’s acting captain for the match, Mitchell Santner brought himself on in the seventh over and provided an immediate breakthrough. He dismissed Ishan Kishan caught behind on the second ball while Suryakumar Yadav hit a tossed up outside off delivery straight to cover four balls later. In his next over, Rishabh Pant tried to slog sweep the left arm spinner but miscued it to the mid-on as India were reduced to 83/3 in nine overs.
Timely cameos from Harshal Patel and Deepak Chahar recover India’s innings
Rohit Sharma registered his 26th T20 international fifty in route to his magnificent 56 off 31 balls. In the 12th over, he stepped down the track to smash Ish Sodhi straight over his head but hit the bottom of the bat and Sodhi took a terrific catch to dismiss the Indian skipper. The two Iyers – Shreyas and Venkatesh – added 36 runs in 27 balls before getting dismissed in a span of three balls.
India were 140/6 in 16.1 overs with no specialist batter at the crease. However Harshal Patel, who opens the innings for Haryana in T20s, scored 18 off 11 balls while Deepak Chahar, who has untapped batting potential, smashed 21* off 8 balls to take India past 180.
Axar Patel wrecks the NZ top order
Chasing 185, the visitors needed a strong start from their openers. They scored 21 runs in the first two overs, most of which came off the bat of Martin Guptill. Things went downhill from then on as Axar Patel bagged Daryl Mitchell’s wicket on the first ball of his spell. He then gets Mark Chapman on the last ball of the same over, when the left hand batter stepped out to go big only to see Rishabh Pant take the bails off.
Glenn Phillips tried a fancy reverse sweep in Axar’s next over but was clean bowled, with NZ scoreboard reading 30 for 3 in five overs.
Martin Guptill’s fifty wasn’t enough as India bundle out the opponents on 111
Martin Guptill was the only player from the visitors who showed some sort of fight against India’s bowling unit. The opener slammed 51 runs off 36 balls with the help of four fours and as many sixes. After scoring 51 out of the team total of 69, Guptill tried to go hard against Yuzvendra Chahal but was holed out at long-on.
New Zealand could not get any partnership going as they kept losing the wickets almost every over. They lost their last six wickets for just 42 runs. Axar was the pick of the bowlers for India with 3 for 9 in three while Harshal bagged 2 for 26. Chahar and Chahal claimed one wicket each along with Venkatesh Iyer, who took his maiden scalp in international cricket.
India will be happy with a 3-0 series victory over New Zealand but they could’ve done more for the long run. The two teams will now shift their focus towards the much important two-match Test series, starting November 25 in Kanpur.