Hosts and World T20 favourites India were handed a rude awakening in their very first match of the tournament, as New Zealand shocked them by 47 runs at Jamtha in Nagpur on Tuesday. Chasing 127 to win on a surface that was turning square, reminiscent of the 1996 Eden Gardens surface during the World Cup encounter, India crumbled in similar fashion to that forgettable day. Keeping the pitch in mind, Kane Williamson decided to play additional spinners and leave out Tim Southee and Trent Boult, which proved to be masterstroke. Mitchell Santner, Ish Sodhi and Nathan McCullum combined to make India eat humble pie.
It was a procession of wickets for India right from the start, with Shikhar Dhawan trapped lbw in the first over, completely missing a sweep. Rohit Sharma then played all over a Santner delivery that turned square, to be stranded outside his crease. Three balls later, Suresh Raina lobbed the simplest of catches to midwicket while Yuvraj Singh followed soon after, driving uppishly, only to be caught and bowled by McCullum. At 26 for 4, Virat Kohli was India’s sole hope, but he too perished to Sodhi’s first ball, driving away from the body, and edging one. The pitch only got tougher to bat on and India eventually managed a rather humble 79.
Earlier, the Super 10 round kicked off in the most spectacular way possible, with Martin Guptill launching Ravichandran Ashwin straight down the ground for six first ball. However, the script went awry for New Zealand thereafter. Very next delivery, Ashwin had his revenge as Guptill tried to slog sweep him only to be adjudged leg before, even as the replays showed the ball going over the stumps. There was no shortage of excitement though as Colin Murno came in used the switch hit for the second six in the first over of the match. Like Guptill, he too fell soon after trying to launch Ashish Nehra over the top.
New Zealand, who had won the toss, and decided to bat made the bold move of leaving out both their star pacers. The move was justified by the Indian spinners who got plenty of purchase off the surface. Interestingly, it was Suresh Raina, and not Ashwin who stood out. The off-spinner put Kiwi skipper Kane Williamson out of his misery by having him stumped for 8 from 16 balls. This was after he had seen Guptill and Munro come and go.
Raina’s contribution was not limited to his batting. He produced an excellent stop at the bowler’s end, and caught Ross Taylor short of the crease with a backhand throw. The batsman at the striker’s end was Corey Anderson who, commendably, restricted his natural stroke play, and resorted to holding the innings together. A few glimpses of his attacking self came when he muscled Jasprit Bumrah down the ground. The bowler had the last laugh when he cleaned up Anderson with a perfect yorker for 34 from 42 balls.
At one stage, it seemed New Zealand would struggle to reach 120, but Luke Ronchi smashed a full toss from Nehra over the ropes to ensure so. As it turned out, Kiwis needed much fewer to defend.
--By A Cricket Correspondent