Team India bounces back in the 2nd T20I at Auckland against the Blackcaps
Eden Park: New Zealand’s national and largest sports stadium played venue to the 2nd T20 between New Zealand and India.
India were 1-0 down in the three match series and needed to win to stay alive.
They did so comprehensively by 7 wickets with more than an over to spare.
They are now one win away from adding yet another trophy in what has been a glorious summer across long tours of Australia and New Zealand.
Chasing 159, India brought about their A game closing out the match with ease. The Blackcaps won the toss and decided to bat first, however squandered the advantage slumping to 4-50.
Colin de Grandhomme (50) and the experienced Ross Taylor (42) came together for an innings resurrecting 77 run 5th wicket partnership, but were unable to carry on and as a result, the New Zealand innings lost momentum towards the end.
Batting first, de Grandhomme said they “could have easily got 170-180 (runs), but they [Indian bowlers] executed well”. The batsman did his best to unsettle the Indian spinners, striking four sixes and taking advantage of the short straight boundaries at Eden Park but perished just as he was looking dangerous.
India came out with positive intent in the chase led by skipper Rohit Sharma, who found the fence and also over it with alarming ease. He raced to a 28 ball half century and in the process became the leading run scorer overall in T20Is.
Sharma holed out the very next delivery however for an even 50, but was well supported by Dhawan (30) and Rishab Pant (40*) promoted to number three who partnered with MS Dhoni (20*) to take India home.
This was my third visit to New Zealand and second to a cricket match at Eden Park after the 2015 Cricket World Cup.
When you watch India play cricket, you soon realise that it is a game of sounds. Like the DJ outside the ground getting the crowd dancing their way to their seat even before the game started.
Or the near pin drop silence ahead of the national anthems, perhaps only matched when an Indian wicket falls.
Or the purity of sound when perfect timing of willow on leather sends the ball sailing high into the night sky and over the boundary. As was the case when Rohit Sharma was batting.
The ground was essentially full house and just like in Australia, was a sea of blue. It is no surprise that this crop of Indian cricketers has used this to their advantage—what Kohli terms as ‘home advantage’ even whilst ‘away’.
The atmosphere in Auckland was electric. It was easy to see why T20 cricket is such a hit with spectators especially for families, women and children.
This was Friday night entertainment. And all over in less time than an old-school Bollywood movie.
What was not to like?
The design of the stadium means whilst the official match attendance was 36,961—in reality, the noise from the predominantly Indian supporters sounded more like 80,000.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar found some movement both ways early on and took the first wicket for India dismissing Seifert the very next ball after the batsman had hit him for a six.
India then took a gamble introducing the spin of Krunal Pandya inside the power play and the ploy immediately worked with a double-wicket over, albeit not without some controversy.
Pandya induced the dangerous Colin Munro into hitting straight to covers for 12 just as he looked threatening, and followed it up with a skidder to dismiss Daryl Mitchell lbw. The batsman immediately reviewed and confusion ensued.
The hotspot appeared to show a mark on the bat, however snicko revealed no spike. The third umpire proceeded to use hawkeye, which showed the ball go on to hit the stumps and ruled the decision against the batsman. This created a minor controversy, with Mitchell and Kane Williamson who he was batting with seen pleading with the on-field umpires and the Indians after seeing the hot spot replay on the big screen.
The decision was upheld, but question marks were once again raised over the correct use and interpretation of technology by the umpires and its accuracy.
Pandya, in a man of the match performance dismissed Kane Williamson the next over to finish with 3/28 off his four overs, in what was a decisive spell of bowling.
The other highlight in the first innings was Vijay Shankar’s spectacular ran out of Ross Taylor with a direct throw from long on. Shankar showed tremendous presence of mind and pin point accuracy just as Ross Taylor closed in on a fifty, once again proving the value he brings to India in short form cricket.
India looked at complete ease in the chase to seal a comprehensive win and draw the series level going into the final match in Hamilton.
Just as was the case in Australia, after being 1-0 down, India rebounded back strongly in subsequent games.
“We have played a game previously in Hamilton (in the 4th ODI, which Indian lost), and have experience on how that pitch plays now and will prepare accordingly. Winning this game has given us more confidence. We will continue to improve, have a nice set up and look to win the final match,” said a confident Khaleel Ahmed post game.
The crowd kept themselves entertained through Mexican waves in the closing stages of the game and erupted as India overhauled the total. Jets of flames signalled the finish and one could feel the energy at the ground.
A match involving India brings itself to the forefront through sound, where the state of play can be measured by it and be followed even by the blind.
Auckland had come alive, and the Indian supporters were once again dancing in the aisles in what was on this night, their Garden of Eden.
The writer is the founder of Infinity Cricket, having run cricket events since 2011 with a vision of ‘connecting people through cricket.’ He was also a Commonwealth Games Ambassador in 2018. Visit www.facebook.com/infinitycricket