After an abysmal showing at the recently concluded T20 World Cup, India managed to make a turn around last night. Team India’s first T20I against New Zealand in Jaipur on Wednesday (November 17) marked the beginning of a new era in Indian cricket.
Rohit Sharma took over the reins of T20I captaincy from Virat Kohli and Rahul Dravid began his tenure as the head coach of the men in blue.
They say a well started is half done. Sharma and Dravid should certainly feel that way as team India flourished to a five-wicket win over the Kiwis in their first assignment.
Suryakumar Yadav was the star performer for the Men in Blue courtesy of his clinical knock of 62 runs off 40 deliveries. Aptly, he was declared the player of the match as well, putting on display an array of breathtaking strokeplay.
Team India appeared a bit edgy and circumspect towards the end of their run-chase. However, their win over the Blackcaps in the opening T20I should give them a lot of confidence. It is something for the fans to cheer about as well after the recent disappointments of the T20 World Cup.
On that note, let’s take a closer look at the three keys in India’s win over the Kiwis in Jaipur.
#1: Ravichandran Ashwin’s brilliance with the ball
Since his inclusion in the side against Afghanistan at the T20 World Cup, Ravichandran Ashwin has been on a comeback trail in T20Is. The right-arm off-spinner was instrumental in squeezing the flow of runs in the middle overs for his side, returning with brilliant figures of 2/23 off his four overs.
The last over of his spell, the 14th of New Zealand innings, pushed the Kiwis on the backfoot. He got rid of the dangerous and well-set Mark Chapman with a beautifully tossed-up delivery. It hit the top of the off-stump to provide India with a breakthrough that they were desperately searching for.
Martin Guptill and Chapman’s 109-run partnership seemed to be flourishing, threatening to take the game away from India. But Ashwin had other ideas, striking when India needed him the most.
The 35-year-old backed up Chapman’s wicket by dismissing Glen Phillips for naught, providing India with a double-break to bring them back into the game.
Ashwin reinventing himself with the ball in T20Is is certainly a positive sign for team India in the lead up to the next year’s T20 World Cup Down Under.
#2: India pulling it back in the final three overs of New Zealand innings
Despite New Zealand losing back-to-back wickets of Chapman and Phillips in the 14th over, Guptill kept the Kiwis in the hunt. He launched an onslaught in the next three overs to propel New Zealand to 144 at the end of 17 overs, making use of the pace offered by Indian quicks.
Guptill deposited the first ball of the 18th over into the stands and appeared to be in ominous touch to heave plenty more in the death overs. However, Deepak Chahar was brave enough to bowl the next ball on length as well and was rewarded with the wicket of New Zealand’s opener. Guptill departed for well-made 70 runs off just 42 deliveries.
Guptill’s dismissal derailed New Zealand’s hopes of a strong finish at the death. Bhuvaneshwar Kumar bowled an exceptional 19th over, conceding just five runs. Tim Seifert, Rachin Ravindra and Mitchell Santner were unable to clear the ropes and the Blackcaps stumbled, scoring a meager 20 runs off the final three overs.
Though India eventually won, they experienced a bit of a wobble towards the end themselves, edging past the line only in the 20th over.
Had New Zealand finished strong, the story of the contest could have been different. In hindsight, New Zealand’s failure to hit big after Guptill’s fall certainly haunted them in the end.
#3: Team India’s top-order playing with a sense of freedom
Against Pakistan and New Zealand at the T20 World Cup, India’s top-order jaded and heavily burdened with the weight of expectations.
However, in the first T20I against the Kiwis in Jaipur, team India’s top 3 played with a sense of absolute freedom and authority. They plundered the bowlers with flair and flamboyance.
New captain Rohit Sharma and Surkyakumar Yadav in particular were relentless. The Kiwi bowlers appeared clueless when these two were batting in the middle.
Batting second certainly helped their cause, but that takes nothing away from team India’s commendable performance.
India should have won in a more convincing fashion rather than being circumspect towards the end, especially after an impressive start. Nonetheless, this performance should give them plenty of confidence ahead of the 2nd T20I.
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These two sides will once again lock horns in the 2nd T20I in Ranchi on Friday (November 19).