The newly-appointed captain-coach duo of Rohit Sharma and Rahul Dravid took off with a series sweep against New Zealand on Sunday. Team India registered a clinical 73-run win over the Black Caps in the third and the final T20I in Kolkata to affect a white wash. Eventually, it turned out to be India’s biggest win against the Kiwis in the shortest format of the game in terms of margin of runs.
India set a challenging target of 185 runs for the Kiwis after opting to bat first. In the absence of KL Rahul, it was Ishan Kishan who accompanied his captain, Rohit Sharma, to open the innings. The duo went off to a flying start, stitching a 69 run opening stand before stand-in New Zealand skipper Mitchell Santner launched his wicket-taking juggernaut.
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The left-arm spinner struck twice in his opening over and took down the likes of Ishan (29) and Suryakumar Yadav (0). Santner’s nexy victim was Rishabh Pant who holed out to James Neesham in an attempt to slog sweep.
Amid the regular fall of wickets, it was Rohit Sharma who batted in style and led with panache. He made a statement scoring 56 off 31 balls, leading the way with five fours and three sixes in his sublime knock. He didn’t allow the fall of wickets to bog him down as he got his fifty with a deliberate cut through the vacant third-man area off his opposite number.
His sequence of scores in last six T20 Internationals is 74, 30, 56, 48, 55 and 56 and captaincy hasn’t changed his style of play one bit.
It took a brilliant one-handed reflex catch from Ish Sodhi to dismiss Rohit. Sodhi tried to bowl wide off Rohit’s reach but gave enough air, which enticed him to give the charge without getting to the pitch of the delivery.
The Indians stuttered in the middle overs before Harshal Patel (18 off 11 balls) and Deepak Chahar (21 not out off 8 balls) used their long handles which fetched 50 runs in last five overs.
In reply, Axar Patel (3/9) bowled accurately and also got one to turn as his three wickets in Powerplay literally ended New Zealand’s resistance and the rest was a mere formality. Despite a fine knock from Martin Guptill (51), the visitors surrender for a paltry 111 runs in 17.2 overs.
The New Zealand team looked bone tired after a grueling T20 World Cup campaign and the result won’t be a fair reflection of the team’s capabilities as they went through the motions for the better part of the three games.
It was a second back-to-back bilateral T20I series triumph with a clean sweep for India after beating the Black Caps 5-0 in their own den in 2020.
(With Agency Inputs)