India 166 of 5 (Suryakumar 62, Rohit 48, Boult 2-31) beaten New Zealand 164 by 6 (Guptill 70, Chapman 63, Ashwin 2-23, Bhuvneshwar 2-24) by five windows
When Venkatesh faced his first ball in international cricket, India was threatening to lose a match that seemed impossible to lose less than half an hour ago. With six balls remaining, they needed ten to win. And New Zealand, having exhausted all of its main seam bowlers, threw the ball to Mitchell.
Swing keeps New Zealand calm
After a couple of matches to Guptill, Bhuvneshwar greeted Mitchell with an inswinger. Mitchell hit the ball with no footwork, and the ball slipped past its inside edge to knock down the middle stump.
That was India’s only wicket in the power play, but the ball kept swinging for Bhuvneshwar, Deepak Chahar and Mohammed Siraj, and all three made a concerted effort to throw into the stumps. Chapman, the No. 3 from New Zealand, struggled to break free from this strangulation, or even come off the strike. After three overs, Guptill had faced only two balls, and after five overs, he had faced only six. At the time, Chapman was 20 of 23 and New Zealand 26 of 1.
An association flourishes
New Zealand got going in the last power play, when Chahar abused the slower short ball and conceded 15. There was only one limit in the next four overs, shared between Ashwin and Axar Patel, but India conceded a series of them. after that, with Guptill he spread his arms through a pair of high drives against Siraj, and Chapman pushed Axar away by six-four at 12 and went up to fifty in the process.
When Guptill and Chapman hit back-to-back limits around 14, New Zealand was 110 out of 1 and was looking for 177, according to ESPNcricinfo’s Forecaster.
Daniel Vettori – R Ashwin’s skill helped him groom Chapman and Phillips
Ashwin turns on the magic
But Ashwin had other ideas. He had already discovered that this pitch offered grip and spin if he threw the odd ball a little slower, and had beaten Chapman’s outer edge comprehensively in the seventh over with an overspin-loaded dip break. He threw another now, throwing over the stump of the leg, and hit Chapman’s side pull to drive the stump back.
The next three balls were a close examination of Glenn Phillips’ technique. Two leaks: the first goes with the arm past the outer edge, the second rips inward to hit the inner edge and hits the thigh pad, and then the carrom ball, tilting inward before straightening toward the stump. Phillips’ bat cut the line on defense, and the ball hit its outer edge to hit the back pad, roughly in line with the stump, the verdict of a referee who sent him on his way after he checked.
Chahar and Siraj deny New Zealand’s grand finale
However, Guptill was still in, and Siraj and Bhuvneshwar’s big six in the 15th and 17th overs rushed him past 50 (he got there in 31 balls) and into the sixties. Guptill then nailed a big drive into the stands beyond the midwicket against Chahar at the start of the 18th, to climb New Zealand’s 150.
The momentum seemed to go completely in one direction, but Chahar landed a crucial hit on the next ball, slowing down to ensure that a repeat attempt by Guptill ended up stuck on the edge. New Zealand’s innings thereafter were like a punctured balloon: they scored just 14 of the last 16 balls of the innings, as new hitters battled for time.
Five overs in the chase of India, this looked like the T20 World Cup transplanted to Indian soil. Win, shoot, chase, win comfortably. India was 50 years unbeaten by then, with the ball coming to the bat and allowing Rohit to show off his range of shots with his rear foot. A horizontal bat slap that leaves all the gardeners nailed in place? Yes. Open face direction to bisect back point and short third? Yes. Enter the stands? Are you seriously asking?
Suryakumar brings her dolls to the party
Rahul fell at the start of lap six, choosing the deep square leg with a Santner pull, and India sent Suryakumar, presumably to go after the New Zealand spinners. Soon, he was purring too, bringing out his trademark whips on Todd Astle and Lockie Ferguson’s midwife. Halfway through, India was 85 to 1.
Trent Boult sent Rohit back at 14 with a slower goalie paired with a cleverly placed leg trap, but Suryakumar continued to find the limit frequently and rushed India towards his goal. He reached fifty with his 34 ball, and when Boult dropped him on the long leg on the 16th round, a keeper of the bowling pins of Tim Southee, the end seemed very close with India needing 23 of 24.
But a good over can transform a game, and Boult delivered, alternating yorkers with short body balls to concede just one in three balls to Pant, before launching Suryakumar behind his legs. Shreyas Iyer played two points to finish the over, and suddenly India needed 21 of 18 without a set hitter in the fold.
And just like in the New Zealand innings, India stopped, possibly because the ball was going soft. Ferguson and Southee conceded just 11 of the next 12 balls, the last of which brought Shreyas’s wicket, caught at length. And crossed with Pant as he did so, leaving the rookie on strike last.
We know what happened next, and as devious and creepy as it was, the Rohit-Dravid era had started with a win, and India had ended with a seven-game losing streak, in all formats, against New Zealand.
Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo
"खाना विशेषज्ञ। जोम्बी प्रेमी। अति कफी अधिवक्ता। बियर ट्रेलब्लाजर। अप्रिय यात्रा फ्यान।"