For 10 years, India had struggled to break the Twenty20 International code in New Zealand. After a heavy loss in Wellington, Rohit Sharma’s side was under pressure to stay alive. However, the captain led from the front and his record-breaking 16th fifty helped India break the jinx in style with a seven-wicket win in Auckland and level the three-match series 1-1. Rohit’s fifty made him the leading run-getter in the Twenty20 International format, overtaking Martin Guptill’s tally while he became only the third player after Guptill and Chris Gayle to hit 100 sixes in this format. Rohit’s knock and a magnificent spell from Krunal Pandya played a key part in India staying alive in the series.
The women’s match featured a low-scoring encounter which New Zealand won on the last ball. The nature of the Eden park wicket suggested it would be sluggish and Kane Williamson chose to bat. Tim Seifert, who had hurt India in Wellington with a brutal 43-ball 84, looked dangerous yet again by slamming a six and four off Bhuvneshwar Kumar but the bowler had the last laugh as Seifert edged to MS Dhoni. Colin Munro broke the shackles with a six and four off Khaleel Ahmed while Williamson got going with a couple of boundaries.
However, the sixth over bowled by Krunal Pandya changed the complexion of the game. Munro (21) sliced a flatter ball to cover but the LBW dismissal of Daryl Mitchell sparked a major controversy. Mitchell was given out LBW to Krunal Pandya in the seventh over and he opted for the review. Replays showed there was an inside edge and there was a mark on hotspot. However, when it came to the use of the Real Time Snicko, there was no spike and the on-field decision of out stayed. Mitchell was stunned and he refused to go, clearly believing that there was an inside edge. The on-field umpires had a chat and the situation became even tense when the Indian cricket team got involved. MS Dhoni was having a chat with the officials and Kane Williamson, the New Zealand skipper while Rohit Sharma had a confused look. After a delay of two to three minutes, Mitchell was given the marching orders but the decision by third umpire Shaun Haig raised big questions on the need of conclusive evidence to overturn the decision.
When Williamson was trapped in front by Krunal for 20, India was dominant but Colin de Grandhomme stepped up. He launched legspinner Yuzvendra Chchal for two sixes and a four. De Grandhomme blasted Krunal for two further sixes to bring up his fifty off 28 balls with Ross Taylor giving him good company. However, Hardik got his wicket at a crucial time and New Zealand struggled for momentum in the death overs. Only one boundary was hit and Khaleel Ahmed took two wickets as the Kiwis ended on 158/8, a total which was deemed 20 runs low.
In response, Rohit started off like a train. The Indian skipper went to 99 sixes when he blasted pacer Lockie Ferguson into the second tier at deep midwicket and notched up his 100th six when he flicked Scott Kugglejin to the fine leg fence. Shikhar Dhawan also gave him good company by hammering Tim Southee for a couple of boundaries.
Rohit became the leading run-getter in style when he launched Ish Sodhi into the stands at long on to go past Guptill's tally. The Mumbai right-hander continued to march on as he blasted two sixes off Sodhi and Santner to reach his 16th fifty off 28 balls. With that, he also became the batsman with the most fifty-plus scores in this format, going past Virat Kohli's mark in this format.
New Zealand fought back by getting rid of Rohit (50) and Dhawan (30) in successive overs but India was comfortably placed. Rishabh Pant and Vijay Shankar found the boundary on a regular basis and despite losing Shankar cheaply, India was never flustered. Pant sealed the deal by launching Southee over deep midwicket and ended the match by driving Kugglejin to the long on fence.
Having broken the jinx in Twenty20s in New Zealand, Rohit’s side will be gunning to end their Down Under sojourn on the ultimate high with a win in the final match in Hamilton.
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