India’s jinx continues. New Zealand has now won five T20 internationals out of as many played against India. India were the clear favourites for the opening match of the WT20 Cup this year. The conditions favoured them clearly. A packed home crowd at Nagpur, that left no stone unturned in supporting their beloved team; and spin friendly conditions. Everyone knew that playing New Zealand would be a challenge, but nobody thought Kiwis would win with such an ease and such large a margin.
The pre-match scenario was promising for India, despite losing the toss. New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson announced that they had left out their front line bowlers Trent Boult, Tim Southee and Mclenaghan and replaced them with three spinners. Playing with just Adam Milne and three spinners was a major risk which ultimately paid off for them. New Zealand chose to bat and scored 126 for the loss of seven wickets.
The Indian bowlers did a splendid job of restricting the destructive New Zealanders from opening up and took regular wickets. Jasprit Bumrah was outstanding towards the end, firing in regular yorkers and one that uprooted the middle stump of the danger man Corey Anderson who was cruising along at 34.
Also excellent was Suresh Raina, who bowled superbly and effected a terrific run-out to send back Ross Taylor. Ashish Nehra and Ravichandran Ashwin also pitched in with wickets in their opening overs. At the end, 126 seemed like a small total that India could chase competitively.
The Nagpur pitch provided an excellent purchase and grip in the second innings and New Zealand’s decision to go with three spinners proved fruitful. Santner was virtually unplayable and picked up four wickets for just eleven runs. He was responsible for sending back Sharma early on and he put off any hopes of a miracle win when he took the wicket of Indian skipper and Captain MS Dhoni when he was looking to go all guns blazing. India’s master chaser Virat Kohli was also looking to settle in when spinner Sodhi had him caught behind on his first ball.
It was a great game for New Zealand overall which began with a perfect pitch prediction by Kane Williamson and the selectors. Their decision to go with three spinners was seen with skepticism, but ultimately the risk paid off. The New Zealand team hadn’t played in the subcontinent for a long time and India had just won the Asia Cup and won nine out of their last ten T20 matches.
On top of that, India was playing at home on a spin-friendly track. Despite all the odds stacked against them, New Zealand came out stronger and took the game away from India with ease. New Zealand is now clear front-runners to win the trophy. This defeat will be a good jolt and a wake-up call to the Indian team to re-think their strategy and we will have to see that in their next game against arch-rivals Pakistan.