Hamilton: Rohit Sharma smashed consecutive sixes in the final two balls of the thrilling Super Over, leading India to their maiden T20 series win in New Zealand following a nerve-wracking finish in the third match in Hamilton on Wednesday.
Needing 18 off six balls in the Super Over, India had managed just 10 off the first four balls. Then, Sharma smacked two big hits, one over mid-wicket and the other over long off, to help India pull off a nail-biter.
Before the Super Over, New Zealand had it all under control with two runs needed off four balls and six wickets in hand to overhaul India's 179 for five.
However, the hosts threw it away from a comfortable position as Mohammed Shami bowled a brilliant death over to tie the game, stretching it to a Super Over, bringing back memories of the 2019 World Cup final which New Zealand agonisingly lost to England on boundary count.
New Zealand captain Kane Williamson did all he could, both in the run chase (95 off 48 balls) and the Super Over (11), but it did not prove to be enough to get his team over the line in a must-win game.
It was Williamson's highest T20 score as the Black Caps scored 179-6 (20 overs) in reply to India's 179-5 (20 overs). Rohit's 65 off 40 balls had propelled the visitors after they were put into bat.
India's first T20I series win in New Zealand came after a 1-2 loss to the Black Caps almost 12 months ago.
On Wednesday, India's fielding effort was poor, including an easy drop from Ravindra Jadeja with Jasprit Bumrah (0-45) proving expensive on the night.
Bumrah went for 11 runs in the penultimate over. Shami (2-32) conceded a six off the first ball of the final over but then removed both Williamson and bowled Ross Taylor (17 off 10 balls) in the next five balls to snatch a tie.
In the ensuing Super Over, Williamson and Martin Guptill combined for another 17 runs with two fours and a six as Bumrah's off night continued. In response, Sharma and KL Rahul did the needful for India with aplomb.
Chasing 180, New Zealand started well with Guptill (31 off 21 balls) and Colin Munro (14) putting on 47 for the opening stand.
Guptill smacked two fours and three sixes, but was also the first to go, caught in the deep off Shardul Thakur (2-21) in the sixth over. It became a double blow as Jadeja (1-23) had Munro stumped four balls later.
Mitchell Santner (9) was promoted up the order, but it was Williamson who provided momentum to the innings with a timing and placement master class.
The skipper reached fifty off 28 balls, and then anchored the innings even as wickets fell around him.
Santner went cheaply, and then Colin de Grandhomme (5) struck around to add 49 runs with Williamson. New Zealand crossed 150 in the 17th over and were on course for a surprising win.
Earlier, Sharma came good after after missing out in the twin Auckland T20Is.
Sharma's blitz included six fours and three sixes as he put on 89 runs for the first wicket with KL Rahul (27 off 19 balls).
This was after New Zealand won a third straight toss, but opted to field this time around. The hosts made one change with Scott Kuggeleijn coming in for Blair Tickner. India remained unchanged for the second game running.
Sharma and Rahul then teed off immediately as New Zealand bowlers struggled to come to terms with the slow pace of the Seddon Park pitch.
Sharma got to his half-century off 23 balls as he smacked 27 runs off Hamish Bennett's second over. It was the third time he had scored a T20I half-century off as many balls, with his fastest coming off 22 balls against West Indies in 2016.
Rahul though fell to Bennett (1-13) at the other end. Surprisingly, Shivam Dube (3) was promoted to number three but the move didn't work out. He was out after facing a laborious seven deliveries, which also sucked momentum out of the Indian innings.
The pressure told at the other end as Sharma was dismissed off Bennett as well. India lost three wickets for seven runs in the space of three overs.
Skipper Virat Kohli (38 off 27 balls) and Shreyas Iyer (17 off 16 balls) then tried to resurrect the innings with 46-run partnership for the fourth wicket.
Iyer's dismissal was the turning point, stumped off Mitchell Santner in the 17th over. Two overs later, Kohli was caught at extra cover.
Manish Pandey (14 not out) and Jadeja (10 not out) pushed the score past 170 but India fell short of a 200-score the openers had set up.
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