Hamilton: India failed to chase down a target of 213 set by New Zealand in the final T20I at Hamilton to lose the series. This was their only series defeat in an otherwise successful tour of Australia & New Zealand.
The game was evenly balanced and came down to the final six deliveries with sixteen runs required and Dinesh Kartik, who was striking well up to that point on strike.
Karthik managed two off the first delivery, but then left the second ball in anticipation of a wide, which was rightly not called before bizarrely refusing a single off the third ball when a further 14 runs were still required.
Kartik ironically deposited the final ball into the crowd for six but India fell short by four runs and in the process lost their first ever three-match T20I series.
However, after a long tour of Australia & New Zealand that began in November, India can be mighty pleased in having won the test & ODI series in Australia, drawing the T20 series there and having won the ODI in New Zealand.
Watching cricket at Seddon Park in Hamilton was a throwback to a bygone era. Tree-lined grassy banks and great vantage points gave the final match of the T20I series between India & New Zealand a real carnival feel to it.
One such spectator dressed in traditional Indian-wear took the relaxed atmosphere literally and decided to make a dash to the wicket. He was blasé in his approach, but couldn’t outrun the chasing security guards. With a $5,000 fine and eviction, he most certainly had the most expensive ticket to this match. That was until two more spectators decided to run onto the ground in the latter stages of the match.
Apart from those three individuals, the crowd was studious and unlike in Auckland, which was more boisterous and noisy, followed the game intently reserving the biggest cheer of the day when MS Dhoni’s name was announced.
New Zealand began their innings with intent with 24 year old Tim Seifert impressing with the bat. He made 43 off 25 balls and shared an 80 run opening partnership with Colin Munro, who put in a man of the match performance of 72 runs off 40 deliveries.
Impressed with Seifert’s performance, Indian journalist Chetan Narula said he wouldn’t be surprised if he received an IPL call up should there be a need for an overseas player replacement. New Zealand coach Gary Stead also praised Seifert’s development saying the opening role came due to Martin Guptil’s absence and was an “opportunity he has taken with both hands and certainly pleased from what I saw.”
It wasn’t a great day for the Pandya brothers with the ball, with the duo leaking 98 runs off their 8 overs and with the exception of Kuldeep Yadav who took 2/26 off his quota of overs—the Indian bowlers struggled on this day.
The local hero Mitch Santner opened the bowling for New Zealand and brought about the first breakthrough dismissing Shikar Dhawan for five. Rohit Sharma wasn’t at his fluent best but shared a 75 run 2ndwicket partnership with Vijay Shankar.
Shankar strode out to the wicket at number three and immediately looked to shift the momentum back India’s way with aggressive strokes. He scored a 28-ball 43 and was one of the positives for India from this series.“I think out of these two series, I learnt a lot about the various conditions, wickets, even in batting. I learnt a lot from all these games.”Youngsters Rishabh Pant (28 off 12) and Krunal Pandya (26* off 13) vindicated the selectors faith in them and showcased their talent.
So India may have lost this one, but with one eye on the World Cup would be pleased with the learnings gained from the tour and the performance from their bench strength.
For the players themselves, it was a chance to go back home to India and get a short but well deserved break, before the limited over series comprising 2 T20s and 5 ODIs begins against Australia on 25 February.
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