Some misses should worry the Indian team
New Zealand bounced back against India in spectacular fashion, making their T20I (5-0) drubbing by the visiting Indian team appear like distant memory.
The boys in blue displayed a radically different form to that shown during their dominating series sweep in the shortest form of the game.
Within a space of three days, there was a remarkable turn of events.
On February 2, 2020, knives were out against the Blackcaps as they snatched defeat from the jaws of victory in three successive matches, and in the process, gifted India a record-setting T20I clean sweep. This came at the back of a disastrous tour of Australia, where New Zealand’s Test weakness was exposed.
To add to the drama, Coach Gary Stead went on leave, apparently scheduled six months prior, leaving many perplexed.
Why a coach would plan leave in the middle of a major international series, that too one involving one of the powerhouses of the game, remains a total mystery.
Captain Kane Williamson was out too, sidelined with a shoulder injury, and pacer Trent Boult was still absent, leaving ageing Tim Southee to regain form very quickly after his T20 super over misfortunes. Things couldn’t have looked gloomier for New Zealand Cricket.
However, February 5, 2020 was a day when it all turned out against all predictions.
Shreyas and KL Rahul stand out
After being put into bat, India racked up a mammoth 347/4 in the first of the three-match One Day International (ODI) series, thanks to a maiden ton from in-form player Shreyas Iyer and a masterful 88 not out from KL Rahul.
This was a great total, given that Openers Mayank Agarwal and batting sensation Prithvi Shaw both fell cheaply after finally making their ODI debuts.
Ross Taylor a delightful ton
Kiwi batting legend Ross Taylor brilliantly guided the chase with an unbeaten 109. Stand-in captain Tom Latham and opener Henry Nicholls also contributed well with the bat.
With eleven deliveries to spare, the Blackcaps made the chase look easy.
Sloppy fielding and poor bowling hounded the Indians.
Jasprit Bumrah, who has been on top form for a couple of years, failed to find a wicket and went for 53 off his ten overs.
Needing a win to save the series, India chose to field at Eden Park.
Spinner Yuzvendra Chahal replaced Kuldeep Yadav while experienced Mohammed Shami gave way to young speedster Navdeep Saini.
Openers Martin Guptill and Nicholls raced away before Nicholls was trapped in front with the score nearing 100. From 93/1, the Blackcaps slid to 197/8 thanks to brilliant bowling by Chahal and Jadeja. A remarkable ninth-wicket partnership of 76 ensured New Zealand finished on 273.
Taylor was the hero again with an unbeaten 73, splendidly supported by debutant bowler Kyle Jamieson. Bumrah went wicketless for a second match in a row conceding 64 off his ten, the most expensive in the game.
Miserable start for India
The gettable target for India started miserably as Agarwal and Shaw both fell cheaply, yet again. Before long Captain Virat Kohli departed as did Rahul.
Iyer showed resilience and talked with his bat once more partnering with the reliable Ravinder Jadeja. Kedar Jadhav looked out of place wasting 27 deliveries for a paltry nine runs.
Brave Saini then joined Jadeja at the crease to give faint hopes of victory.
In the end, India folded for 251 in total, 22 runs short of the target.
New Zealand bowlers found the right line and length ensuring five Indian batsmen were clean bowled, including Kohli, Shaw and Rahul.
India had lost the series.
The final ODI shifted to the Bay Oval in Mount Maunganui, where India were under the pump early, losing Agarwal and Kohli for single figures.
Iyer continued his top form with 62 while Rahul hit a brilliant ton, conjuring hundred run partnerships with Iyer as well as Manish Pandey, who replaced Jadhav. India pushed their total to 296/7.
Indian defence fails
India’s defence failed very early, with the bowlers struggling to trouble Guptill and Nicholls who raced to 100 by the 16th over.
Chahal and Jadeja once again applied brakes with tight bowling and occasional wickets.
Nonetheless, from 220/5 Latham and all-rounder Colin de Grandhomme took the team home, to close the chapter on a remarkable comeback from a beleaguered position.
The unfortunate loss of Rohit Sharma may very well have contributed to India’s woes.
Of concern is the fact that Bumrah finished the series wicketless, his first and a feat he would not want to remember.
The focus now shifts to the two match Test series.
India will miss Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan, also out due to injury.
Talented Shubman Gill and Shaw are in the squad as are the usual regulars.
Rahul is an unfortunate to miss out, especially after being in scintillating form in the short form of the game.
Ravi Nyayapati is our Sports Correspondent. He lives in Auckland.
“India’s defence failed very early, with the bowlers struggling to trouble Guptill and Nicholls who raced to 100 by the 16th over. The unfortunate loss of Rohit Sharma may very well have contributed to India’s woes. Of concern is the fact that Bumrah finished the series wicketless, his first and a feat he would not want to remember.
The focus now shifts to the two match Test Series.”
-Ravi Nyayapati, Indian Newslink Sports Correspondent