And what a Match it was on Wednesday at Seddon Park, Hamilton!
Auckland, January 30, 2020
Clinical India have made an impressive start to their seven-week tour of New Zealand.
Much to the delight of huge Indian crowds in Auckland, the first two of the five match T20 series were held at Eden Park.
The opening game set the scene for what should be a great outing for Captain Virat Kohli and his young team. New Zealand won the toss and scored big runs, amassing 203/5.
Captain Kane Williamson, and batting supremo Ross Taylor came off their recent slump in form to make half centuries, along with Colin Munro.
Indian seamers bowled well, although the stats show otherwise.
The Indian reply was as good as good it could possibly get.
Shreyas Iyer well settled
Kohli and opener KL Rahul set up the platform for the big chase, and Shreyas Iyer took the game away with a 29-ball 58, after a mini panic by the middle over.
Iyer’s chase was comforting given the absence of MS Dhoni and Hardik Pandya from the team. Iyer seems fairly settled and a natural at number 4.
What was outstanding was how India chased down the huge target at a consistent run rate of ten plus an over. In the end they reached the target with an over to spare.
Back at Eden Park on India’s Republic Day, the patriotic and vocal Indian crowd were gifted a classy display by their modern-day heroes.
The high-scoring pitch in game one seemed a distant memory as the drop-in pitch of the day presented a totally different surface.
Black Caps fail to capitalise
New Zealand simply failed to capitalise on their crucial toss win and having opted to bat.
Their misery began early with a docile Powerplay display.
Boundaries became a rarity, and the accuracy of the ruthless Indian seamers cornered the Blackcaps to conjure a scanty 132/5, in spite of an inferior fielding effort by the Indians.
The Indian bowlers were superb, with all-rounder crowd favourite Ravinder Jadeja finishing his four overs for a remarkable 2/18.
In India’s chase, Rahul was once again on song, bringing up yet another fifty in recent times.
Iyer also rose to the occasion again, with a comfortable 44 off 33.
The game was sealed in the 18th over as India made better use of the conditions.
The Hamilton experience
The third game moved south to Hamilton. Put into bat, Hitman Rohit Sharma made good use of the short Seddon Park boundaries to score a 40 ball 65, including clubbing pacer Hamish Bennett for 26 off the sixth over.
New Zealand fielding was exceptional. The experiment to bring youngster Shivam Dube at number 3 backfired for Kohli, with a loss in momentum for the team. India eventually finished at 179/5 thanks to some late hitting.
The Black Caps reply was much more spirited with some power hitting by Martin Guptill and Williamson. India’s fielding got worse from their second game. Williamson was operating on a different plane, scoring his highest T20 innings of 95 off just 48 deliveries.
However, Williamson departed and with six wickets in hand, needing two runs off four deliveries, New Zealand somehow forced themselves in another super over situation.
Super Over nightmare
Their Super Over nightmare haunted them yet again. After scoring a descent but jittery 17, New Zealand were unable to contain the power of Sharma who blasted 12 off the last 2 balls.
Trailing the series at 0-3, New Zealand need to get back on a winning track. India, on the other hand, are likely to test their bench strength.
The choice of Rahul as Wicketkeeper raises challenges.
Unlike his batting, his glovework is below par for international cricket.
Coach Ravi Shastri would be aware of this and is perhaps tolerating this as a stopgap measure to give other newcomers a chance to showcase their talent.
A lot is at stake for players given the T20 world cup is only nine months away.
Ravi Nyayapati is our Sports Correspondent. He lives in Auckland.