A complete all-round show from India helped them end their winless streak against New Zealand in T20Is as Ashish Nehra got a winning send-off in front of his home crowd in New Delhi. After Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan laid a fine platform for India to post a 200-plus total, the bowlers didn’t show any signs of being too impacted by the dew factor as they never left the visitors stay ahead of the asking rate. After a highly-competitive performance in the final ODI, New Zealand’s indifferent batting performance paved the way for a heavy defeat by 53 runs.
The early onset of dew at the Kotla meant the New Zealand bowlers resorted to sliders, darters, cutters and even knuckle balls frequently as Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma made a steady start after being asked to bat first. Kane Williamson tested the resolve of the two batters by employing left-arm spinner Mitchell Santner in the first and the final over of the batting powerplay. But the Indian duo barely broke a sweat as they took the side to 46 for 0 after six overs, during the course of which Dhawan was offered a reprieve when Santner dropped a fairly early opportunity at point.
Rohit Sharma offered an even simpler chance – to Tim Southee at long off – but the fast bowler fluffed it to allow the opening partnership to flourish. Both Rohit and Dhawan punished the visitors for their mistakes on the field by putting together the highest ever T20I opening partnership for India and third overall – 158. What was also crucial was the pair’s ability to hit the next gear exactly when India needed them to. From 46 in 6 overs, India cruised to 80 at the halfway stage. And yet, the match-defining period came in the next six overs to follow. The impact of dew prompted Williamson to try out the nagging medium pace of Colin Munro, but the move proved to be the outlet for Rohit to find his way out of a sedate start. Ish Sodhi too was welcomed with some hostility in his second spell as the pair took their opening stand past 100. Williamson had to use five different bowlers in the six overs after the 10th, as Rohit and Dhawan blazed away to power India to 158/0 in 16 overs – a frenzied phase of six overs that fetched India 78 runs, including a 14-run over off Sodhi, 11 off Southee, 15 off Santner and 18 off Trent Boult.
Sodhi found mini-redemption in his final over, as he ended Dhawan’s exceptional knock on 80 and dismissed Hardik Pandya for a second-ball duck with a superb leg spinning delivery. Virat Kohli ensured the sudden fall of wickets didn’t ruin India’s march towards 200, a total that looked a lot smaller on a day when dew was bound to play a big role when New Zealand had their chance to bat. In his 11-ball cameo, Kohli scored a couple of eye-popping sixes – one that even baffled him – and with MS Dhoni for company in the final over, collected 17 off the final over to push India’s total to 202 for 3.
New Zealand’s quest for keeping their ‘cleansheet’ against India began on shaky grounds. A blazing start from Martin Guptill would’ve helped, but the New Zealander’s poor streak in India continued. On Wednesday, it was purely down to an absolute blinder of a catch from Hardik Pandya that sent the opener packing. Pandya made a dash from wide long off to take a catch with a full-stretched leap. In the fourth over, Bhuvneshwar Kumar unfurled a yorker that ended his recent nemesis Colin Munro, leaving New Zealand down to 18 for 2.
New Zealand’s fate rested in Kane Williamson’s hands who slowly began to build a stand with No. 4 batsman Tom Latham. But a smart bowling change just before the halfway stage ended that partnership abruptly. Hardik Pandya struck off his first ball – an innocuous length ball outside the off-stump that Williamson nicked to Dhoni behind the stumps. From that point on, New Zealand’s uphill task only got steeper as India kept chipping away at wickets. Axar Patel’s double strike in the 13th over – removing young Tom Bruce and Colin de Grandhomme – left New Zealand reeling at 84 for 5 in 13 overs, and needing more than 119 off the last seven overs.
Any hopes of pulling that equation off was virtually laid to rest by Yuzvendra Chahal in the 17th over, when a well-disguised googly beat Tom Latham’s swinging willow and allowed Dhoni to whip the bails off while the batsman was well out of his crease. Mitchell Santner prolonged New Zealand’s eventual defeat, giving Kohli a chance to throw the ball for the final over to the retiring Nehra. The left-arm pacer smiled his way through it and finished his final four-over spell with none for 29 as India took a 1-0 lead in the three-match series.
Brief Scores: India 202/3 in 20 overs (Rohit Sharma 80, Shikhar Dhawan 80; Ish Sodhi 2-25) beat New Zealand 149/8 in 20 overs (Tom Latham 39, Kane Williamson 28; Yuzvendra Chahal 2-26, Axar Patel 2-20) by 53 runs.