Juggernaut halted: India lose first series on their tour Down Under

Colin Munro, who plundered 72 runs from 40 balls, and Tim Seifert (43 off 25 balls) gave New Zealand a lightning start that allowed them to reach 212-4 as they batted first after losing the toss.
New Zealand denied India a perfect finish to their highly successful tour Down Under by clinching the T20 series 2-1 with a narrow four-run win in the series-deciding third match in Hamilton on Sunday.

India savoured a historic Test and ODI bilateral series win in Australia before recording their biggest ODI series win on New Zealand soil.

A first-ever T20I series win would have been an icing on the cake but the hosts held their nerves to pull off a thrilling victory. With Sunday’s result, India have lost their first T20I series after winning nine and drawing one.

India needed to knock off a steep 213-run target to bring curtains on a memorable three-month tour in a befitting manner but fell just short.

Colin Munro, who plundered 72 runs from 40 balls, and Tim Seifert (43 off 25 balls) gave New Zealand a lightning start that allowed them to reach 212-4 as they batted first after losing the toss.

India mostly lagged behind the necessary run rate and came to the last over needing 16 runs to win. Tim Southee bowled a tight over and though Dinesh Karthik thrashed the last ball for six, India came up just short at 208-6.

Karthik finished 33 not out and Krunal Pandya 26 not out but India lacked the substantial partnerships that might have lifted them to the winning target.

Vijay Shankar, with 43 from 28 balls, and Rishabh Pant with 28 from 12 looked, along with the last pair, as if they might propel India to victory but the India run chase was poorly organized and fell just short.

“It was pretty disappointing not to go through that finishing lane but I thought we fought pretty well,” India captain Rohit Sharma said. “I thought 210-odd was always going to be a tough chase but I thought we were in the game right until the end. But I thought New Zealand bowled pretty well at the end. They kept using that yorker which rewarded them.”

Munro signaled his and New Zealand’s intentions from the outset, hitting the first ball he faced from Bhuvneshwar Kumar for 6. He rushed to 50 from 28 balls with three fours and four sixes and his entire innings contained five fours and five sixes and set the tempo for a strong New Zealand batting performance. New Zealand were 46-0 after five overs and its first 50 runs came from only 32 balls.

Seifert fell at 80 to a dubious stumping decision as MS Dhoni completed a slick dismissal from the bowling of Kuldeep Yadav. Munro continued to set the rapid tempo of the innings before falling to Yardav when New Zealand was 135-2.

Further contributions of 27 from 21 balls by captain Kane Williamson, 30 from 16 balls from Colin de Grandhomme, 19 from Daryl Mitchell — son of England assistant rugby coach John Mitchell — and 14 from seven balls by Ross Taylor swelled the New Zealand total and proved decisive in a close finish.

India suffered an early setback when it lost the wicket of Shikhar Dhawan to the bowling of left-arm spinner Mitchell Santner in the first over of its reply.

Sharma set out to play an anchor role and batted until the 14th over. He was prepared to understudy the big hitters who were likely to see India to a match and series victory but their contributions were too sporadic and too short.

Shankar blasted 43 from 28 balls with five fours and two sixes and Rishabh Pant began what looked like a match winning innings with three sixes and a four from his first eight deliveries. But he fell to one of the soft dismissals that undid India’s chase for victory.

It stayed in the hunt for a win when it took 14 runs from the penultimate over, bowled by Scott Kuggeleijn. But Southee bowled a tight last over and Karthik, who monopolized the strike at the expense of Krunal Pandya, who had taken 26 runs from 13 balls, wasn’t able to clinch a win.

“It was a brilliant series and both teams put on a fantastic display of cricket, especially today,” Williamson said. “What a brilliant game and great advertisement for T20 cricket.