Shubman Gill dazzled by hammering a sublime maiden double century as India beat New Zealand by 12 runs to take a 1-0 lead in the three-match ODI series at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium in Uppal on Wednesday.
India rode on Gill’s 208 (149b, 19*4, 9*6) to post a mammoth 349 for the loss of eight wickets. When the lights came on, the bowlers picked wickets upfront but stumbled against a counter-attacking century from Michael Bracewell before bouncing back to clinch the thriller. The match went tantalisingly close with Bracewell keeping the visitor in the hunt with a breath-taking 140 off 78 balls and New Zealand requiring 20 runs in the final over.
Shardul Thakur was taken to the cleaners; he leaked 47 runs in seven overs. He was entrusted to bowl the final over with Mohammed Shami and Mohammed Siraj finishing their quota of overs. Bracewell welcomed Thakur by smoking the medium pacer high into the wide long-on stands for a maximum. Shardul followed it up with a wide but the murmur rose to a din when the medium pacer trapped the centurion plumb in front with a yorker to bundle out the Kiwis for 337.
After Gill’s heroics with the bat, Siraj, playing his first international match at home, starred with the ball by taking a four-wicket haul. On a day where 686 runs were scored on a track that aided bounce and turn, Bracewell steered New Zealand from a precarious position and almost won the match for the Black Caps. But Siraj returned to bowl an inspiring spell at the death and registered figures of 10-2-46-4 at an economy of 4.60 - the best figures at this venue, eclipsing Umesh Yadav’s figures of 9-0-53-4 against Sri Lanka in November 2014.
Finn Allen and Devon Conway failed to give New Zealand a fiery start as Siraj made an early breakthrough by dismissing Conway. The fast bowler has built a reputation of striking inside the PowerPlay and the pattern continued.
The end of PowerPlay saw Thakur dismissing Allen with a well-planned short ball strategy as Shahbaz Ahmed took an excellent catch with a dive in the deep. Kuldeep Yadav found his mojo back with a three-wicket haul against Sri Lanka and playing in place of Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep struck immediately on arrival. He first castled Henry Nicholls with the wrong’un, beating the batter’s defence to crash into the off-stump. Then the wrist-spinner trapped Daryl Mitchell to deliver a double blow.
In a tall chase, New Zealand was reeling at 131 for the loss of six wickets when Bracewell joined hands with Santer and halted India’s charge. India’s problem with polishing off the opposition’s tail persisted as Bracewell hammered a 57-ball century - his second ODI hundred to keep the visiting side in the hunt. The duo injected life in the chase with a brilliant 162-run stand for the seventh wicket in 102 balls to bring the equation down to 76 off 42 balls.
Despite the carnage, India managed to pull things back as Siraj shifted the momentum in India’s favour with two quick wickets. Hardik then bowled an excellent penultimate over and dismissed Lockie Ferguson to dent New Zealand’s hopes of clinching victory from the jaws of defeat.
Earlier, Gill scored his second successive three-digit score, breaking numerous records en route to the mark. At 23 years and 132 days, Gill became the youngest player to hit a double hundred and better his teammate Ishan Kishan’s double-century record. It was a knock of sheer masterclass on a track that offered bounce and turn as Gill singlehandedly helped India post a massive score as the top-order failed to fire.
Winning the toss and opting to bat, the pair of Rohit Sharma and Gill gave the home side a fine start forging a 60-run opening stand off 73 deliveries. The Indian captain looked promising as he scored a 38-ball 34 and teed off on arrival by smashing Henry Shipley for two sixes. He then followed it up with a sublime cover drive.
However, a bright start was cut short when Rohit tried to hit Blair Tickner over mid-on. The dismissal was welcomed by a huge roar as Virat Kohli walked out to the middle only to walk back almost immediately. Riding on a rich vein of form, Kohli entered the contest with three centuries from four games but Mitchell Santner slid one that just straightened a bit as Kohli was left stunned when the ball clipped the bails.
Having lost both Kohli and Rohit, Gill took the onus on himself and batted through the innings as Ishan Kishan, Suryakumar Yadav and Hardik Pandya failed to make a big impact. However, Suryakumar did entertain with some dazzling strokes as Gill stitched an important 65-run stand and then got involved with a 74-run stand with Pandya and paced himself for a big knock. Pandya departed in a controversial fashion as Tom Latham’s gloves seemed to have dislodged the bails after the batter missed the cut shot.
But despite inconclusive replays, the decision was passed in favour of New Zealand with Santner picking his second wicket. However, that didn’t stop Gill from entering the record books and setting up an Indian win.