Hitman Rohit Sharma’s 15 runs off five balls in Super Over, loaded with two consecutive sixes against Tim Southee, cruised India to win their maiden T20I series in New Zealand on Wednesday (January 29).
The tourists have now taken an unassailable 3-0 lead in five-match series after defeating the Kiwis in the third ODI via Super Over at Seddon Park, Hamilton.
Needing 18 off six balls in the Super Over, India had managed just 10 off the first four balls. Then, Sharma smacked two big hits, one over mid-wicket and the other over long-off, to help India pull off a nail-biter.
Before the Super Over, New Zealand had it all under control with two runs needed off four balls and six wickets in hand to overhaul Indias 179 for five.
However, the hosts threw it away from a comfortable position as Mohammad Shami bowled a brilliant death over to tie the game, stretching it to a Super Over, bringing back memories of the 2019 World Cup final which New Zealand agonisingly lost to England on boundary count.
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New Zealand captain Kane Williamon did all he could, both in the run chase (95 off 48 balls) and the Super Over (11), but it did not prove to be enough to get his team over the line in a must-win game.
It was Williamson’s highest T20 score as the Black Caps scored 179-6 (20 overs) in reply to India’s 179-5 (20 overs).
Rohit’s 65 off 40 balls had propelled the visitors after they were put into bat. India’s first T20 series in New Zealand came after a 1-2 loss to the Black Caps almost 12 months ago.
Rohit also achieved a milestone of registering 10,000 international runs as an opener while Kohli surpassed MS Dhoni to join the elite list of highest run-scorers as captains in the shortest format of the game.
On Wednesday, India’s fielding effort was poor, including an easy drop from Ravindra Jadeja with Jasprit Bumrah (0-45) proving expensive on the night.
Bumrah went for 11 runs in the penultimate over. Shami (2-32) conceded a six off the first ball of the 20th but then removed both Williamson and bowled Ross Taylor (17 off 10 balls) in the next five balls to snatch a tie.
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In the ensuing Super Over, Williamson and Martin Guptill combined for another 17 runs with two fours and a six as Bumrahs off night continued.
In response, Sharma and KL Rahul did the needful for India with aplomb. Chasing 180, New Zealand started well with Guptill (31 off 21 balls) and Colin Munro (14) putting on 47 for the opening stand.
Guptill smacked two fours and three sixes, but was also the first to go, caught in the deep off Shardul Thakur (2-21) in the sixth over.
It became a double blow as Ravindra Jadeja (1-23) had Munro stumped four balls later. Mitchell Santner (9) was promoted up the order, but it was Williamson who provided momentum to the innings with a timing and placement master class.
The skipper reached fifty off 28 balls and then anchored the innings even as wickets fell around him. Santner went cheaply, and then Colin de Grandhomme (5) struck around to add 49 runs with Williamson.
New Zealand crossed 150 in the 17th over and were on course for a surprising win. Earlier, Sharma came good after missing out on the twin Auckland T20Is.
Also read: Rahul, Iyer power India to clinch T20 opener against New Zealand
Sharma’s blitz included six fours and three sixes as he put on 89 runs for the first wicket with KL Rahul (27 off 19 balls). This was after New Zealand won a third straight toss, but opted to field this time around.
The hosts made one change with Scott Kuggeleijn coming in for Blair Tickner. India remained unchanged for the second game running.
Sharma and Rahul then teed off immediately as New Zealand bowlers struggled to come to terms with the slow pace of the Seddon Park pitch. Sharma got to his half-century off 23 balls as he smacked 27 runs off Bennetts second over.
It was the third time he had scored a T20I half-century off as many balls, with his fastest coming off 22 balls against West Indies in 2016.
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Rahul though fell to Colin de Grandhomme (1-13) at the other end. Surprisingly, Shivam Dube (3) was promoted to number three but the move didn’t work out.
He was out after facing a laborious seven deliveries, which also sucked momentum out of the Indian innings.
The pressure told at the other end as Sharma was dismissed off Bennett as well. India lost three wickets for seven runs in the space of three overs.
Skipper Virat Kohli (38 off 27 balls) and Shreyas Iyer (17 off 16 balls) then tried to resurrect the innings with 46-run partnership for the fourth wicket. Iyers dismissal was the turning point, stumped off Mitchell Santner () in the 17th over.
Two overs later, Kohli was caught at extra cover. Manish Pandey (14 not out) and Jadeja (10 not out) pushed the score past 170 but India fell short of a 200-score the openers had set up.
The fourth T20 International between the two sides will be played on Friday (January 31) in Wellington.
(With inputs from agencies)