On a chilly winter evening in MS Dhoni’s den, with the great man watching from the stands in Ranchi, Hardik Pandya’s India finished second, New Zealand’s spin led by skipper Mitchell Santner (4-1-11-2) lagged behind the trio. The first of the three-match T20 series on Friday.
Chasing 177 was always going to be a tough task on a pitch that was taking sharp turns. Arshdeep Singh’s prolific bowling and the inability of India’s new-look top-order to kick against spin is something the home team has been left to chew on after their 21-run defeat.
Pandya called the toss right and chose to chase on requisite lines to avoid the loss of dew. In the fifth over of India’s bowling powerplay, Washington Sundar was letting the ball explode as if auditioning for a Test spot. Three consecutive balls – spin and bounce, play and miss and subtle variations in length – were played with the mind of left-armer Mark Chapman after which Washington beat him in the air to take a flying return catch. Earlier in the same over, the off-spinner showed heart by throwing the ball to Finn Allen despite being hit for a six off the previous ball, and the right-handed batsman took a 35-run catch at deep mid-wicket.
That two-wicket over from Washington made it clear that it was going to be a day for spin. After New Zealand were 37/0 in four overs, India changed tactics with a lot of spin and Hardik Pandya using cutters to check the scoring rate. Between Washington (4-0-22-2), Kuldeep (4-0-20-1) and Deepak Hooda (2-0-14-0), India conceded just 56 runs in ten overs and took three wickets in the process. Achieved.
Kuldeep may be preferred over his spin-partner Yuzvendra Chahal, a lot can be said about the presence of four left-handers in the opposing batting line-up. He rose to the occasion, playing his part with regular use of the googly and one of them, Glenn Phillips (17), was well enough.
Except for Devon Conway, all the Kiwi batsmen could not get going against the spinners. The in-form Conway, however, was able to sweep both conventionally and against spin to bring up his half-century in 31 balls.
Bad last over from Arshdeep
At 123/3 after 16 overs, New Zealand’s chance to increase their run-rate came with India switching to the pacers in the death overs. Conway couldn’t do much damage but Daryl Mitchell was quietly waiting for the right match-up at the other end. He started to change his arm and it all came together for Arshdeep Singh’s downfall in the final over.
The left-handed batsman started the first ball of the last over with a no ball. Not only did Mitchell hit that ball over long-on over the ropes, but he used the depth of the crease to hit two more back-to-back sixes – one over square leg, the other over the bowler’s head . Mitchell ended on 59* (30, 3×4, 5×6) and that 27-run over overshadowed a lot of good work done by India’s bowling unit; Another example of the fine margin of the format. It was a poor over, a no-ball at the wrong time, as again shown, can change the momentum of the match. Arshdeep Singh is guilty, too late.
New Zealand spinners on top
Even though the visitors had spinners to utilize the turn on offer, Santner knew the dangers of dew. He decided to use spin at the start of the second over itself. Off-spinner Michael Bracewell took his off-stump by spinning the blade of Ishan Kishan (4). Soon, Rahul Tripathi fell without scoring to the swing of Jacob Duffy, Shubman Gill (7) was flattened by Santner’s biggest spinning ball of the day and India were no match after the powerplay – 33/3.
Due to which the captain and vice-captain of India came to the crease. Pandya and Suryakumar Yadav lifted India with a 51-ball 68-run partnership against the turning ball and scoreboard pressure. Yadav was on a comprehensive spree against spin and kept India in the hunt by playing distinctive horizontal shots against pace. Until, an error in judgment saw him dismissed for a soft dismissal on 47, hitting Ish Sodhi’s delivery straight to long-on. Pandya (21) soon followed him in the dugout in the very next over, leaving India reeling at 89/5 in the 13th over. Not even Washington’s Braves 50 (28) was going to be enough.