New Delhi : It rained sixes on a dew soaked Feroz Shah Kotla, as Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan put on 158, India’s highest for the first wicket, to set the tone for a trouncing of the Kiwis by 53 runs, in the first of the three T20Is in Delhi. Both openers were dismissed for an identical 80 off 55 and 52 balls respectively. A slew of records were broken as Dhawan notched his highest T20I score and Rohit became the highest six hitter from India in all T20s (including IPL), surpassing Suresh Raina’s 265 sixes. As though on a leash, New Zealand crawled their way to a measly 149 for eight, handing India their maiden T20I victory over them in six attempts.
Put into bat, India were aided by an uncharacteristically sloppy fielding effort by New Zealand. The Kiwis dropped as many as three catches. Batting on 8, Dhawan was reprieved by serial offender Mitchell Santner, who had earlier dropped a dolly off Kohli in the first ODI in Mumbai. Rohit and Virat Kohli were also gifted a life each. Each of these indiscretions proved costly in the context of the match. New Zealand’s ground fielding further compounded their troubles as they leaked crucial runs through regular fumbles, which can often be the difference in the abridged versions of the game.
For New Zealand, the spinners stood out despite a discernibly slippery ball, evidenced by the two beamers hurled by medium pacer Colin Grandhomme. Leg-spinner Ish Sodhi, however, was on top of his game, extracting considerable turn and bounce, notwithstanding the wet ball. His two for 25 included the scalps of Dhawan and Hardik Pandya in the same over. The latter was promoted to number three in the quest for quick runs but lasted just two deliveries. Sodhi was well supported by Santner, who went wicket-less but conceded just 30 in his four overs.
Kohli, who had demoted himself to number four, struck three sixes in an unbeaten cameo of 26 that came in 11 balls. M.S. Dhoni, too, joined the party with a first ball six, as India eclipsed the 200-run mark, finishing on 202 for three.
India, too, dropped their share of catches, but snaffled the important ones. A case in point was a blinder by Pandya, who hared across to his right from long-off before diving full length to pouch a miscue from Martin Guptill safely in his outstretched hands. The bowler Yuzvendra Chahal and departing batsman Guptill were merely the support cast in that sensational dismissal. If the breakthrough gave India an inch, thereon they stole a mile, striking with the regularity of a swinging pendulum. Guptill’s partner Colin Munro was cleaned up by a Bhuvneshwar Kumar yorker for just seven. That left New Zealand tottering at 18 for two, and the required run-rate catapulting with every passing over. Although Kane Williamson and Tom Latham momentarily stemmed the rot, the pressure of the chase was soon upon the captain, as he slashed at a wide one from Pandya, only managing a nick to the keeper Dhoni for 28. Then Axar Patel struck twice in one over to further dent New Zealand’s chances of an improbable heist. Chahal hammered the final nail in the coffin two overs later, as Latham ran past a quicker one, to be stumped by Dhoni for 39. Ashish Nehra, playing his final international for India, appropriately finished the formalities, delivering the last over that sealed the win for India.