Chennai: India faltered towards the end of their chase to lose the second and final Twenty20 International against New Zealand by a run here Tuesday. The match, however, saw a successful comeback for Yuvraj Singh.
India failed to come up with finishing touches after sitting pretty at 129 for three and needing 39 off the last 30 balls.
It seemed skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni (22 not out) and comeback man Yuvraj Singh (34) would take India past New Zealand’s 167 for five but the Black Caps bowled brilliantly in the death overs to pull off a stunning victory.
The hosts ended at 166 for four as Virat Kohli’s spectacular 70-run knock went in vain. Brendon McCullum was the top-scorer for New Zealand with a whirlwind 91 off 55 balls.
Medium pacers Kyle Mills (2-17) and James Franklin (2-26) contained the flow of runs when it mattered most with the latter denying the home team a win in the final over. The hosts needed 13 off the last six balls and a four of the last one but Rohit Sharma (4 not out) could only come up with a couple, sending a stunned silence over the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium.
The win also ensured a series win for the visitors after the Hyderabad wash out and something to cheer about going into T20 World Cup in Sri Lanka starting next week. India, on the other hand, are yet to beat the Kiwis in the shortest format of the game.
The silver lining for India was Kohli’s sublime form and Yuvraj’s show with bat and ball. Irfan Pathan (3-31) too impressed, swinging his way to a three-wicket haul.
But Kohli and Pathan’e efforts were expectedly overshadowed by the return of Yuvraj, who got an overwhelming reception from the boisterous Chennai crowd every time he moved on the field.
The southpaw, playing his first international game in nine months after overcoming a rare germ cell cancer, dispelled all speculations on his fitness.
He showed glimpses of his old self during his 26-ball stay at the wicket, ending in the last over of the match after being bowled by a slower one off Franklin.
He came at the crease after Suresh Raina’s dismissal made it 86 for two in the 11th over, and India needing another 82 for the win. The stadium erupted when he guided one off his hips for single to get off the mark.
The highlight of his innings was the two sixes he hit off Daniel Vettori and Jacob Oram. The one against Vettori was his trademark lift over long-on while he cleared his left leg to smash Oram over deep mid-wicket.
During the New Zealand innings, McCullum took Indian bowlers to the cleaners and helped his team set an imposing total.He got good support from Kane Williamson (28) and skipper Ross Taylor (25 not out).
McCullum and Williamson were involved in a blazing 90-run stand after the Black Caps lost opener Rob Nicol and Martin Guptill inside the first two overs.
Williamson was a spectator to some powerful-hitting by McCullum for most of the 66-ball partnership.
The dangerous wicket-keeper batsman smashed 11 boundaries and three sixes before Pathan bowled him with a slower ball.