Navdeep Saini, a frontline fast bowler almost looked a specialist batsman when he along with Ravindra Jadeja nearly took India over the line in the second ODI against New Zealand at Eden Park, Auckland on Saturday.

Saini’s 76-run partnership for the eighth wicket with Jadeja brought the tourists back into the game in pursuit of a 274-run target but the former’s dismissal crushed team’s hopes.

Saini had smacked Kyle Jamieson for a six but was bowled in the next ball. “I will regret when I go back and see the video. If I hadn’t got out, maybe the result could have been different. Will regret that I took it so close and maybe could have gotten closer,” Saini said at the post-match press conference.

“We felt the wicket was flat and if we could stay till the end, the match could go close. So we were trying to contribute as much as possible and take the match to the end. Jadeja had told me that if you get a boundary ball hit it. Otherwise take singles or doubles, try to keep patience and we can take the game to the end.”

On the eve of the match, Saini was seen batting long in the nets and it paid off as he scored 45 off 49 balls, including five fours and two sixes.

“It is a good thing that the lower order is performing like this. If everyone performs, it is called a team effort. If batsmen cannot score, bowlers should. If bowlers are not taking wickets, fielders should help. It is a team, after all.

“I was thinking that I got to bat after a long time. As soon as I hit the boundary, I was in shock. Wow, the ball is coming really well off my bat, I thought. Among the support staff, Raghu (throw down specialist) helps me with batting and is always encouraging me to do well. Even in hotel, he keeps telling me that I bat well and should do better. He keeps motivating me and always talks about my batting,” he said.

Saini feels he’s settling down in the family environment has been easy, but there is a major step up from domestic to international cricket.

“There is lot to learn. I am learning as much as I am playing. Conditions are different than home. I am learning about my bowling, what lengths to bowl, how to plan, these things are important for me to learn and for my team. Difference is that margin of error is lower,” he said.

The third ODI will be played at Mt. Maunganui on Tuesday.