India suffered their heaviest loss in T20Is (in terms of runs) in the opening match of the series against New Zealand at Wellington. Opting to bat first, New Zealand's were powered by Colin Munro and Tim Seifert's enterprising opening stand as they piled on 219 with the help by some late flourish from Ross Taylor and Scott Kuggeleijn. A poor start means, India were never really in the run-chase and eventually lost by a whopping 80 runs.
Here is our report card from the encounter.
Having offered a great chance to open batting, the dynamic Seifert grabbed the opportunity by both hands as he targeted the Indian bowlers from the start. He handled the spinners with conviction and put up 66 in the powerplay with Munro. And despite the fall of his partner, Seifert kept scoring quick runs, eventually falling short of a ton by just 16 runs, a knock that involved seven fours and six maximums.
After being benched for most of the ODI series, Southee returned to the T20I line-up with aplomb, cranking up the pace, finding swing and keeping Indians on their toes. He removed Rohit Sharma in his second over after a superb first one which went for just a single and followed it up with the big wickets of Krunal Pandya and MS Dhoni to finish with figures of 3/17 in his quota of four overs.
After a short break which involved sitting out of the last ODI, Ferguson was seen spitting fire at Wellington, bowling consistently around the 150kmph mark and finding movement off the deck. He cleaned up a well set Shikhar Dhawan with a peach of a yorker before adding the wicket of Bhuvneshwar Kumar later in the innings. It was difficult to score against Ferguson because of the pace he was generating as he returned with figures of 4-0-22-2.
Williamson had a dreadful ODI series and his decision to push Seifert ahead of him to open the innings suggested he was low on confidence. But the move paid rich dividends for the Kiwi skipper and buoyed by that confidence, he looked assured in his innings at Wellington as he scored a valuable 22-ball 34 which included three sixes, two among them off Hardik Pandya coming off consecutive balls.
Munro finally found his touch batting alongside an aggressive Seifert as they put on 86 for the opening wicket in 8.2 overs. He played second-fiddle to a rampant partner and seemed to revel in the role, without the pressure of increasing the run rate. Munro made 34 in 20 balls with a few eye catching strokes and would now hope to convert that kind of a start the next time around.
Santner was economical as India targeted the huge target and kept the batsmen silent with his smart variations. The Ish Sodhi-Santner pair had caused havoc in India in the World T20 opener three years ago, and although this wasn't a performance of that level, Santner's value to the T20 side was yet again underlined with another good show. Santner got rid of a dangerous looking Vijay Shankar with flight and drift and then yorked Rishabh Pant with a quicker one to capture his second wicket in the innings. He leaked runs at just six an over and piled on the pressure in the run-chase.
Dhoni stood among the ruins yet again but with no one to support him in run-chase, the 31-ball 39 turned out to be a futile exercise. Dhoni walked in at 64/3 and saw the team collapse to 77/6 in less than two overs. The veteran switched to the role of grafter immediately but with none hanging around with him, the target was too far away.
Sodhi and Santner wreaked havoc in the middle overs as they picked up four wickets among them in less than three overs. The leggie got rid of Dinesh Karthik, who can be a dangerous player in run chases, and the big hitting Hardik Pandya in the space of four deliveries to seal India's fate. Krunal Pandya spoiled his figures with a 16-run over but Sodhi did enough to justify his ICC T20I bowling ranking of four.
Promoted to No 3, Shankar, whom Ravi Shastri had described as someone who can 'spank the bowling' in a recent interview, showcased good temperament and a wide array of shots. An elegant six over mid-off against Scott Kuggeleijn shortly after he smashed a couple of fours revealed how good a player Shankar can be. Unfortunately, like in the fifth ODI, he couldn't convert his start and sliced Santner's flighted ball to long-off to depart for an 18-ball 27.
Taylor's 14-ball 23 gave New Zealand some impetus towards the end after Seifert, Daryl Mitchell and Williamson were dismissed in the space of three overs. New Zealand were in danger of losing the momentum at this point but Taylor pulled it back with the cameo that helped them go past 200 comfortably.
Mitchell couldn't grab a golden chance to make an impression on debut with the bat but returned with the ball to pick up a wicket and bowled pretty impressively, reminding of the Kiwi all-rounders of the 90s. Mitchell appears to be a handy T20 player and will now hope to showcase the same in the forthcoming games.
Dhawan got off to a shaky start against Southee but soon clubbed Kuggeleijn for back-to-back sixes and a four to get into the 'Gabbar' mode. The southpaw has had a great turnaround in T20s of late and displayed the same kind of form that made him the top run-scorer in the last series against Australia. However, Dhawan received an outstanding yorker at 151kmph from Ferguson and was dismissed after an entertaining 18-ball 29.
Pandya was given a chance to impress when he was picked over Kuldeep Yadav and aside from breaking the belligerent opening stand, was one of India's better bowlers amidst the onslaught Kiwis launched. He scored a handy 20 with the bat but an apparent weakness against quick short balls was brought forward by Southee. Krunal will hope to set things right with a good performance in the next game.
Chahal held his own despite his colleagues consistently conceding over 10 runs in an over and picked up the big wicket of Williamson in the middle overs. He conceded 22 in his first two overs as Seifert took him on but came back strongly to give away just 13 in his last two. He remains a valuable T20 bowler against big hitters and is likely to play a bigger role later in the series.
Hardik Pandya made a roaring return to international cricket with ODIs and would have hoped to continue the same kind of form in the shortest format of the game but instead came up against a dangerous Seifert. Pandya was smacked for three fours and a six in his first two overs by the opener and only returned after the keeper-batsman was dismissed. That didn't proved any respite though, as Williamson carved him for two back-to-back sixes. Hardik redeemed himself with the wickets of Mitchell and Colin de Grandhomme but leaked 51 in his quota of four overs aside from failing with the bat when India needed him.
Kuggeleijn gave New Zealand the momentum heading into the innings break with a cracking onslaught against Bhuvneshwar and Khaleel in the final two overs. The all-rounder hit four fours and a six in his seven-ball 20 but came a cropper with the ball, conceding at 17 runs per over in the two overs he bowled. He might be replaced by James Neesham in the next game.
Bhuvneshwar started off with a tidy over but was hit for 15 in his next as Seifert got going. The Indian swing bowler returned in the death overs but failed to impress as he gave away 28 in his last two overs which included two sixes and two fours apiece. He picked up one wicket but looked a shadow of his own self in the death.
Khaleel was once again expensive with the ball and the only positive for him, in an otherwise disastrous performance, was that he cleaned up Seifert in the 13th over when New Zealand were staring at a score in excess of 230. He leaked over 9 runs in each of his four overs and did his World Cup chance no good with another poor show.
With no Virat Kohli and a big target to chase down, India needed Rohit to score big but instead the opener looked out of sorts and Southee prised him out with a short ball in his second over. Rohit, usually a brilliant tactician on the field, perhaps erred by not giving Shankar an over despite the main five bowlers going for runs.
Pant had a chance to stake claim for a World Cup place as he returned to Indian side after a good series against England Lions for India A. With a belter of a surface and a huge target to chase, the stage was set for a hero to emerge. Instead of slipping into it quietly, Pant appeared too eager to get going and never found the middle of the bat in his short stay. He was cleaned up by Santner for four with a quicker delivery.
Karthik pocketed a brilliant catch in the deep to send back Mitchell but later dropped two other sitters in an ordinary day in the field. Karthik, like Pant, had a chance to give India some momentum in the middle overs but departed to an ill-timed slog sweep off Sodhi for 5.
Colin de Grandhomme
De Grandhomme had another ordinary day after a disastrous ODI series and will most likely be sitting out for the rest of the series. He couldn't provide Black Caps a late flourish with the bat and was never called upon to bowl as the others did their job to perfection. With Neesham and Blair Tickner awaiting chances, De Grandhomme might not figure in New Zealand's plans for next game.
Rating chart: 10-9: Excellent, 8-7: Good, 6-5: Average, 4-3: Poor, 2-1: Very poor
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