As if the stunning losses from winning positions in last two T20Is were not enough, New Zealand batsmen contrived for the 3rd straight match to throw away another strong position to lose narrowly by 7 runs and proved to be “hospitable hosts” in handing over India a mind boggling 5-0 series win. Thus India created history in winning an overseas cricket series 5-0 for the first time .
With the series decided , both the captains rested themselves and were spotted in mutual conversation on the sidelines as their teams contested in the middle. India , sent in to bat lost Samson (2) early again as he missed another chance to make some impact. The major partnership happened between Rahul and standing captain Rohit as they both enthralled the fans with delightful strokeplay scoring with ease. Rahul’s dismissal for a fluent 45 off 33 balls brought in Iyer who played impressively for 33 while Rohit after reaching 60 off 41 balls with some breathtaking strokes, had a leg injury and retired hurt soon after. India finally reached a modest 163/3 in 20 overs and soon had New Zealand in big trouble at 17/3 .However Seifert (50 off 30) and Ross Taylor (53 off 47) got together in a superb 99 run 4th wicket stand to turn the game around specially after they tore into 6th bowler Shivam Dube’s only over to plunder 34 runs!! With the game firmly in their grip ,the Blackcaps lost Seifert in 13th over which inexplicably set in panic amongst the rest of Kiwi batters as wickets started to fall as the runrate dried up. 6 wickets fell for 25 runs as even Ross Taylor failed to weather the collapse and fell in 17th over. It was a brilliant team effort by the Indian bowlers as they snared the wickets collectively with Bumrah (3/12 in 4 overs) leading the way , rediscovering his rhytm and bowling superbly with Saini (2/23) and Thakur ( 2/38 ) chipped in beautifully. As the last over of Thakur started, two meaty blows by Ish Sodhi for big 6s got the match ,bit more closer but Thakur kept his cool in crisis and India again managed to win a narrow game by 7 runs. Once again ,the inability of New Zealand batters to finish off the game got badly exposed. It must also be added that Rahul led the side on the field admirably in Rohit’s absence
The hosts will try hard to forget this series as they failed to capitalise on strong positions in last 3 games of the series after India won the 1st two T20s with dominant shows. With single digit runs to get in final over of 3rd and 4th game , the Kiwis choked inexplicably even after having experienced and set batsmen at the crease during final overs. For the Blackcaps , Kane Williamson (160 runs at 53 avg), Seifert (141 runs at 47 avg), Ross Taylor (166 runs at 42 avg) and Munro (178 runs at 36 avg) were the top rungetters in the series but only Williamson (170 SR) and Seifert (142 SR) boasted strike rate above 140s. Of the bowlers only Ish Sodhi (6 wickets) and Kuggeleijn (3 wkts) were impressive yielding less than 8 economy rate. Santner was also impressive in parts. The most disheartening aspect of New Zealand’s campaign is the lack of performance by their back up players and also lack of a clear thought process by the top batsmen in their run chases. Also the absence of their two best bowlers, Boult and Furgusion was badly felt as both were wicket taking fast bowlers.
India should be buoyant in winning a tough T20I series in which the final result does not give a true picture of the contest. It can be safely said that it was their bowlers ,who won them this series. The 3rd match had Shami bowl that brilliant final over, the 4th match had Shardul bowling a great final over and finally Bumrah got back his mojo in the last game with the spinners Jadeja and Chahal controlling the middle overs admirably. For the bowlers Jadeja with 4 wickets and just around 6 economy rate and Bumrah (6 wickets and 6.45 economy rate ) were the main leaders. Shardul got most wickets (8) but still needs to work on overall economy rate which was over 9 .Amongst the batters , Rahul (224 runs at 56 average and 145 strikerate) looked in classy form and he also kept pretty well and got the player of the series award. Shreyas (153 runs at 51 avg, 132 SR) enhanced his reputation further and Rohit (140 runs at 47 avg and 151 SR) performed when it mattered most. Virat (105 runs) had a quiet series by his standards. However Shivam Dube , Sunder and Sanju Samson were dissappointing as they had their chances to showcase their ability. Dube has a long way to go to enhance his skills to international standards in both batting and bowling. Hardik Pandya is badly missed by this team. Team thinktank can look at Shardul as a option to fill the all rounder’s spot as Shardul is a very capable lower order batsman which he showed in 4th game of this series and also in IPL playoffs in 2018 and few other games.
However , in the final analysis , it was a great series win for India and they should be particularly delighted in winning some close games which appeared dead and buried in the final stages. New Zealand should be gutted at this loss. The intensity and the hunger to win was sadly much less in evidence. More sensible approach by them in closing out games could have easily had a different story to this series.