New Zealand was on course for victory at 116/3, but for the third year in a row, Indian bowlers made a remarkable late comeback to get visitors a clean run with a win in seven races in Mount Maunganui on Sunday, February 2nd.
New Zealand could hardly have had a worse start for a consolation win at 164 in the fifth and final T20I. All of Martin Guptill, Tom Bruce, and Colin Munro fell into the first 20 balls of the hunt. Guptill was caught in the front by Jasprit Bumrah, Bruce got out of hand in a terrible confusion with Tim Seifert, and Colin Munro was occupied by Washington Sundar when he tried to hit him for a third straight line.
New Zealand fought its way back into the chase through a close partnership between Seifert and Ross Taylor. As the innings progressed, things looked much more positive for the hosts, and it seemed that New Zealand had steered the ship in the tenth round when Seifert and Taylor hit four sixes and two fours ahead of Shivam Dube.
The end started with Seifert hammering you down in the middle of the gate. He followed by pulling over a deep square leg for six. After the third ball, he tried a measuring spoon and got an inner edge to the fine line. Taylor then flicked one to keep wicket, and a somewhat modest Sundar field game gave the home team four more.
It turned out that Dube had even exceeded it, and Taylor secured the free-kick for six more hits in the middle of the wicket and ended the game with another hit in the same region. Thirty-four runs have shown it to be the second most expensive in all T20I cricket, just behind Yuvraj Singh’s famous six sixers ahead of Stuart Broad in the 2007 ICC men’s T20 World Cup game in Durban.
The required rate fell to less than seven and the hosts seemed determined to win. But that hadn’t counted much for New Zealand in the last two games when it failed to close the dominant positions and India won both games. The loss of these two super-overs may have led the duo to take risks to end the game earlier, but the move failed.
Seifert fell in love with a well-made fifty when he tried to pull a pull-off from Saini. This wicket was opening India needed when gates were needed in quick succession to lower New Zealand from 116/3 to 133/8. Ross Taylor tried to keep things alive and overtook his fifty, but when he got a nickname for the keeper before Saini in the 18th, it was almost over for the hosts.
Bumrah was the bowler’s choice for India and took 3/12 in his four overs, but Saini’s spell of 2/23 with the gates of the two half centurions was equally crucial.
India had previously lost Sanju Samson again when the batsman who had been sent ahead of Rohit Sharma landed in the air in front of Scott Kuggeleijn. The self-imposed downgrade to # 3 did not appear to affect the captain, who seemed stable from the start. KL Rahul was the attacker in a brilliant partnership, but Rohit reached the limit with increasing regularity.
Rahul glanced up at the ball, and a drive across the cover in front of Tim Southee showed how well he saw the ball. His innings ended with four fours and two sixes when a Hamish Bennett ball hit him to take the lead.
Rohit went past his fifty and looked a lot more, but passed what appeared to be calf discomfort on the 17th and withdrew his inning on 60 of 41 balls with three sixes and as many fours. It was his 25th stroke of fifty or more in T20Is that led him past Virat Kohli for the record.
Shreyas Iyer (33) found support in Manish Pandey, who scored a six and a four after 160 in the last innings against India.