Rahul Dravid starts his tenure as head coach with a win as
India narrowly beat the T20 World Cup finalists New Zealand by five wickets in
the opening encounter of the 3-match T20 series in Jaipur. Powered by
Suryakumar Yadav’s half-century, India were cruising to victory with 23 runs
needed off the final 24 balls. However, three tight overs from the Kiwis added
tension to the run-chase to leave India needing 10 off Daryl Mitchell’s final
over. The Men in Blue eventually crossed over the finish line with debutant
Venkatesh Iyer creaming his first ball to the boundary before Rishabh Pant hit
the winning runs with a lofted stroke over mid-off.
Having won the toss, India got off to the perfect start with
the ball as Bhuvneshwar Kumar uprooted Daryl Mitchell’s middle stump with
an-inswinger. After a slow start, Kane Williamson’s replacement at number three
– Mark Chapman – led the New Zealand revival alongside Martin Guptill, as the
pair shared a 109-run partnership off 77 deliveries.
New Zealand threatened to put on a 180-run total with
Chapman and Guptill at the crease, but R Ashwin pulled things back wonderfully
for India with a double strike in the 14th over. Ashwin beat the left-hander
Chapman in the air with a flighted delivery that crashed into the off-stump
before pinning Glenn Phillips on his pads with a carrom ball.
Martin Guptill took the Blackcaps past 150 with a couple of
swings to the fence, but his dismissal in the 18th over swung the momentum away
from the Kiwis, with India conceding only 14 runs off the final 16 deliveries.
Chasing 165, India got off to a flier on the back of Rohit
Sharma’s exquisite stroke-play, taking 50 runs off the first five overs. The
Indian captain began the proceedings with a trio of boundaries off Tim Southee
and continued the onslaught with a couple of trademark shots against Trent
KL Rahul holed out to Mark Chapman in the deep in the final
over of the powerplay, but Suryakumar Yadav continued the momentum alongside
his Mumbai captain, with the pair sharing a brisk 59-run stand. Yadav carried
on even after Rohit’s dismissal, reaching his 3rd T20I half-century with a six
off Lockie Ferguson and taking India to within a touching distance of victory
with 23 needed off 24 balls.
However, Yadav’s dismissal caused India to stutter at the
death, with the Kiwi pacers fighting back smartly to concede just 13 runs
between overs 17-19. The game was in the balance with ten needed off Daryl
Mitchell’s final six deliveries, but Venkatesh Iyer and Rishabh Pant held their
nerve to ensure that the Rahul Dravid-Rohit Sharma era started on a positive
note with a victory.