Manish Pandey is happy to have finally gotten a chance to bat early in a game. A top-order batsman in domestic cricket, Pandey has been batting either at No.5 or No. 6 due as the competition at the top has been quite stiff. Also Read - IND vs ENG: Motera Pitch Likely to Escape ICC Ban as 4th Test Strip Promises to be Batting Beauty
More often that not, he has been finishing games for India due to his batting position but on Friday, as India top-order collapses, Pandey found himself in the middle earlier than what he has been used to encountering. Also Read - Virat Kohli is Looking After Groundsmen to a Certain Degree: Andrew Strauss Slams Indian Captain For Defending Motera Pitch
Opener KL Rahul was the only one among the top-five batsman to get some significant score in the fourth T20I in Wellington as India were reduced to 88/6 in 11.3 overs. However, Pandey (50 off 36) held the innings together with a fighting half-century and together with Shardul Thakur (20), dragged his team to a competitive total. Also Read - India vs England: Michael Vaughan Blasts BCCI, ICC Over Motera Pitch Controversy, Calls India Pink-Ball Test Win 'Shallow'
The match eventually ended in a tie with India winning in Super Over, their second successive victory in this manner on the tour. “It has been our motto, not only for these two matches, that till the time the last ball is bowled, we won’t give up any match,” Pandey said during an interaction with the media after the match. “If you play with that intent you will get matches like these where you might get a Super Over, and you win from there.”
The 30-year-old admitted he has not choice but to perform the finisher’s role. “I have no choice. I have to be good with it. I have to start preparing my mind as a no. 6 batsman because normally I bat up the order, no. 3 or no.4. Here with the competition up the top, you just have to wait for your chances,” the right-handed batsman said,” he said.
He continued, “Today was the opportunity and I’ve been preparing myself as to how to bat at no. 6 and what kind of shots I can play, what kind of bowlers, and how many overs are left. It’s not an easy position to bat at no. 6, where you know you are the last main batsman and you have to play with the bowlers if anything happens up the top. That’s what happened today. I was pretty clear about my role.”
Explaining how he paced his innings, “I just have to play those twos, look to rotate the strike. I’ve been working on that and today I thought it came off really well. If you want to bat at six, then you have to be pre-ready. The game is already set for you at no. 6 and you just have to sometimes go and perform at the speed that the previous batsmen have set for you.
“Today, I had opportunity to bat a little early. Not too much to contribute the last couple of games, but today was my opportunity and I thought if I could use it to my advantage, that will be great for me and my side. Quite happy to be there in this position.”
India have taken a 4-0 lead in the five-match series and will now be pushing for a clean sweep come Sunday, the day of the fifth T20I. “And now we have an opportunity to make it 5-0 and it will be really amazing to do that. Come the fifth match, we will look to go 5-0 up, that is our plan. Nobody has done it before and especially India has not done it before. So, I think it will be a great start to do that,” Pandey said.
Chasing 166, New Zealand needed seven to chase down the target. They managed six runs in the final over while losing four wickets, finishing at 165/7. So did India fancy their chances to push the match into a second successive Super Over finish? “In the middle, it looked like we were a little easy on ourselves. But since it had happened the last game, we thought we had to bowl good balls and it is possible we push it to a Super Over. And then, as the balls went by and we reached the last two balls, we were certain that this would go to Super Over,” Pandey replied.
He added, “We were ready for it in the back of our mind. We have very good bowlers and Shardul (Thakur) bowled a very good last over. For his effort, he deserved it that the game went into a Super Over.”
India fielders were under scrutiny again, dropping several catches during crucial moments but Pandey said the wind made their jobs a bit tougher. “It becomes difficult to take high catches when there is stiff breeze or wind as the ball starts moving when coming down. Even if you set yourself nicely, the ball still moves around. We need to practice more so that it becomes easier in matches. It’s up to the individual how he prepares himself and sets himself,” he said.