A fiery unbeaten half-century from Shreyas Iyer (29-ball 58*) coupled with another fifty from KL Rahul (27-ball 56) and a handy 32-ball 45 from captain Virat Kohli helped India thrash New Zealand by 6 wickets in the first of the five-match Twenty20 International series at the Eden Park in Auckland on Friday.
Chasing a stiff 204 that came on the back of fifties from Colin Munro, Ross Taylor and captain Kane Williamson, India arrived at the target with an over to spare in a show of batting brilliance from the visitors.
India were looking in control of the run chase despite losing Rohit Sharma early after the end of the first Powerplay when they were 65/1.
Rohit fell as early as the 2nd over after he smashed one off Mitchell Santner straight down the throats of Taylor at backward point to depart for 7.
KL Rahul and captain Virat Kohli then took the game in control, putting the hosts under the pump as the duo forged 99 runs for the second wicket. The partnership was helped with two major blunders from New Zealand.
The first one came in the 6th over. Rahul hesitated to take a run off Hamish Bennett after gentling tapping it forward towards short cover. After an initial stutter, Kohli wasn’t backing away from the run. The cover fielder had more time than he thought for the throw and could have even thrown at the bowler but went for the direct hit only to miss it completely. The mid-wicket fielder backing up also had a chance but his throw at the bowler’s end wasn’t great either, with Rahul diving but that wouldn’t have mattered with a proper throw. Both batsmen earned a reprieve in the same over.
The next one came in the 9th over courtesy a dropped catch from Ish Sodhi, who didn’t even get his hands on a skier that was mistimed by Kohli. However, in the next over, Sodhi made amends of his dropped catch after he sent the dangerous Rahul, who was caught by Tim Southee at long-off. The Karnataka batsman continued his prime form overseas departing for an excellent 27-ball 56, his innings decorated with four boundaries and three sixes.
Kohli, who was trying to ensure the momentum sticks with the visitors, went after Blair Tickner in the 12th over, but was sent back thanks to a stunning catch by Martin Guptill. The Indian captain fell 5 runs short of his fifty en route his 32-ball stay at the crease which was laced with three fours and one six.
Following the departure of Kohli, the momentum then began to slip away from India. After smashing a six and a boundary, Shivam Dube departed for 13.
But just as the match was beginning to slip away from India, Shreyas Iyer and Manish Pandey stitched a match-winning 62-run partnership for the unconquered fifth wicket that saw India cruise to victory.
Iyer was impeccable at the crease smashing five boundaries and three towering sixes including the last six which sealed the match off Southee. Pandey (14 off 12*) provided good support to Iyer, who’s slowly but surely sealing his place as the No. 4 batsman in the side.
Earlier, after being put into bat, New Zealand posted a formidable 203/5 riding on half-centuries from opener Colin Munro (59), skipper Kane Williamson (51) and Ross Taylor (54*).
Guptill and Munro got off to blistering start adding 80 runs for the opening wicket in 7.5 overs. Both utilised the pace on the wicket and the short boundaries, hitting eight fours and three sixes in their partnership. Guptill made 30 off just 29 balls before falling to Shivam Dube courtesy a relay catch at midwicket boundary by Rohit Sharma. With the platform laid, Munro was joined by skipper Kane Williamson in the middle, who also got off to a flier with a six of Dube over extra cover.
But, India pulled things back courtesy a tidy spell of bowling from Ravindra Jadeja. After Williamson had taken Shardul Thakur to two sixes, he got Munro for 59 off 42 balls in the 12th over. Jadeja, introduced immediately after, got rid of the big-hitting Colin de Grandhomme for a two-ball duck. Jadeja’s first ten deliveries went for just seven singles, as India brought the run-rate down.
But, Ross Taylor, after getting a few sighters from Jadeja, plonked the left-arm spinner for a four and a six. This came after Williamson hit a six off Dube over deep midwicket, with Yuzvendra Chahal misjudging the catch in the deep. Mohammad Shami’s third over was then taken for 22 runs with Williamson helping himself to a four and Taylor smacking a couple of sixes over the cow corner and a four. Chahal’s next over yielded 13 runs with Williamson hitting him for three fours. But, the NZ skipper perished in the same over. Tim Siefret fell to Bumrah in the 18th over, that went for just four runs. Taylor brought up his first T20I fifty in six years taking the NZ total past the 200-run mark. He remained unbeaten on 54 off just 27 balls, hitting at a strike-rate of exactly 200.
For India, Chahal, Dube, Jadeja, Thakur and Bumrah took one wicket each, but it was a forgettable day for Shami, who gave away 44 runs in his three overs and remained wicketless. There was also an injury scare for India as Bumrah rolled his ankle in the final over of NZ innings, forcing a slight delay, but he went on to complete the over.
Brief Scores: India 204/4 in 19 overs (Shreyas Iyer 58*, KL Rahul 56,Virat Kohli 45; Ish Sodhi 2/36) beat New Zealand 203/5 (Colin Munro 59, Ross Taylor 54; Kane Williamson 51; Ravindra Jadeja 1/18) by 6 wickets