The exasperated expression on New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson ’s face said it all. It was not a bad ball at all from Tim Southee . It landed in what the bowlers term “good area” but Mahendra Singh Dhoni gave it a disdainful treatment, swatting it over midwicket. The bowler turned to follow the elevated path of the stroke while Williamson could just sport a wry smile. This was T20 cricket at its best and the packed Ferozeshah Kotla relished it even as India registered its first ever win over New Zealand in this format.
It was Ashish Nehra ’s farewell match on home turf and the victory was sealed when he began his and the team’s last over. The 53-run win for India was a nice gift to the veteran left-arm signed off in style with a spell of 4-0-29-0.
The opening fixture of this T20 series, with matches at Rajkot and Thiruvananthapuram to come, was `killed’ by the Indian openers, Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan , in a blazing partnership. The 158-run opening partnership was India's highest opening stand in a T20 game.
It was an exciting competition between the two to outdo the other. The New Zealand attack came to grief as even some good deliveries met with a poor fate, the ball landing in the galleries.
Rohit hit four sixes and Dhawan two. It was a six-hitting carnival. There were boundaries too, the ball flashing to the fence. The Indian batsmen indulged in a good time at the crease, the ball meeting the meat of the bat mostly, and sometimes flying into orbit even when edged. The New Zealand team did not distinguish itself well in the field, the lapses leaving the bowlers frustrated. If ground fielding and catching was New Zealand’s forte thus far, it went to pieces on this night.
Dhawan and Rohit were unstoppable. Anything pitched up was dealt with severely as they picked the length early and hoisted the ball into the vacant areas. New Zealand was clueless and they made it worse with their shoddy catching. It allowed the Indians to progress with the pair of Rohit and Dhawan producing delightful knocks.
Dhawan got a reprieve in the second over of the innings when he was dropped at point by Santner. Rohit was dropped at 16 by Southee and the Kiwis could never recover from their onslaught. New Zealand rued the two errors and never really recovered in the contest.
Hardik Pandya ’s second-ball dismissal was small consolation for New Zealand as India posted a decent total. The target proved beyond New Zealand as India bowled tidily to close the contest. Barring Tom Latham, there was no resistance from New Zealand and the contrived excitement in the closing stages was a fan breaking the security ring and managing to reach Nehra and touch his feet. A lap around the ground by Nehra and his teammates was in keeping with the occasion. A fitting farewell to Ashish Nehra, who served the game with distinction.
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