With a sharp bowling display from Indian bowlers in Thirvananthapuram, India earned their first bilateral Twenty20 series win against New Zealand as they failed to make the mark by six runs in the decider, losing the three-match series 1-2 in a rain-curtailed eight-overs match. Stars of the match, Jasprit Bumrah (2/9) and Yuzvendra Chahal (8 runs in 2 overs) were the saving grace as the batsmen failed to catch up with the ever-rising required run-rate.
Rains spoiled the game, reducing the decisive match of the series by size. Stroke-making wasn't easy under the weather conditions and the hosts could only manage to put on board a 67 for five, with just seven boundaries, including three sixes. Indian pacers and spinners however, bowled their lives' worth in a short and exciting test, finding themselves well supported in the field. Captain Virat Kohli (13) was in action from the start, attacking Ish Sodhi. He hit the spinner for a four and a six but then got out to the New Zealander while going for a big one. Shreyas Iyer (6) and Manish Pandey (17) tried to stabilise the ship but Sodhi picked up another with Iyer departing in the sixth over, holing it out at long-off. Hardik Pandya remained unbeaten at 14 after hitting a huge six with MS Dhoni, who did not get to face even a single delivery.
Kuldeep gave away 10 runs from his first over, fifth of the match, but also picked up a wicket. While Kane Williamson was run out, Glenn Phillip went for a glory slog and was caught by Shikhar Dhawan. The next, a make-or-break over, was bowled by Yuzvendra Chahal. He kept things simple: kept bowling away from the batsmen with a packed off-side field. His 3-run over tilted the match completely in India’s favour. Bumrah next, removed Tom Bruce and gave Hardik Pandya enough cushion to defend in the final over. Pandya started well but went for a huge six off the third ball. The equation read 11 off 3 balls. Colin de Grandhomme could have taken New Zealand across the line, but was however, left stranded at the other end with two balls left. Mitchell Santner tried, but India won by 6 runs.
Kohli admitted that the bowler-friendly conditions made them “nervous”. “I think we were really happy to get a game. This crowd deserved to watch some action. Ever since the ODIs started, we expected them to give a good fight. We were nervous to start here, with the damp pitch. We thought if we can take the run-rate up, it's not going to be so easy. Rohit and MS (Dhoni) came up with Bumrah bowling the second last, and Hardik Pandya bowled the last over well. When Hardik got hurt, I was thinking god forbid if I had to bowl the last four balls,” he said. “We have won a few on the trot and it makes us very proud. This stadium is beautiful, the outfield wonderful and the crowd made it special. I am surprised there were no games here earlier,” he added.
New Zealand captain Kane Williamson said, “It was a tricky surface and runs on board on that surface was handy. It came down to a couple of deliveries. Shame to not get across the line in this decider. As soon as you ran your fingers on the ball, it made life difficult.” Adding, “In this part of the world, wickets can be flat. We showed good fight. You have to be on top of their game to win here, they are one of the best teams in the world. I think there have been number of strides forward for us. Fairly new group and it's not easy, guys coming here for the first or second time. It's a tough place to play.”
India 67 for 5 in 8 overs (Virat Kohli 13, Manish Pandey 17; Tim Southee 2 for 13, Ish Sodhi 2 for 23) beat New Zealand 61 for 8 in 8 overs (Glenn Phillip 11, Colin de Grandhomme 17*; Jasprit Bumrah 2 for 9) by 6 runs.
Man of the Match: Jasprit Bumrah.
Man of the Series: Jasprit Bumrah.