The series-decider in Kanpur has to be the most intense and competitive game of the Indian season thus far with New Zealand pushing India all the way until falling just short.
It was New Zealand’s game to win going into the last four overs of a steep chase, and as well as Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar bowled at the death, it was more a case of New Zealand losing than India winning.
Exactly 365 days earlier, New Zealand had been spun out for next to nothing by Amit Mishra in the final One Day International in Visakhapatnam with the series level 2-2. When India piled up 337 on the back of splendid centuries from Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli, an encore might have loomed, given the scoreboard pressure.
But the way Colin Munro and Kane Williamson set the tone for the chase was wonderful to watch. Munro played his natural game, providing the thrust with robust strokeplay, while Kane showed signs of returning to his best as Bhuvi had a rare off-day.
Yuzvendra Chahal provided the first twist by getting rid of both set batsmen. Showing a big heart on a track that wasn’t responsive to bowlers, he was not afraid to lure the batsmen into big strokes by giving the ball plenty of air, getting excellent drift and dip, as well as turn and bounce. He was putting a lot of body into his action and bowling to get wickets, which is an excellent sign for India going forward.
New Zealand regained the initiative through young guns Tom Latham and Henry Nicholls and should have sealed the deal. Bhuvi showed the stuff champions are made of by producing a beauty to get rid of Nicholls while Latham’s run out settled the scales emphatically in India’s favour. Bumrah was once again outstanding, his control over his yorkers and slower balls under great pressure nothing short of sensational.
That said, I do think Virat ought be a little more inventive as a captain. For instance, he could have taken Bhuvi off after three overs when he had gone for plenty and brought on Chahal to disrupt the rhythm of the batsmen and change up the pace. Set templates don’t always work, and I feel Virat, the skipper, will be better off for this experience.
The captain and his deputy were mesmeric with the bat. I feel there is no more pleasing sight on a cricket field than Rohit in full flight. Hats off to him for admitting before the game that he had a technical issue, and, while his head was still falling over, he played close to his body and with a very straight bat.
And when he gives himself time before exploding without hitting a shot in anger, we all know what Rohit is capable of.