KL Rahul and Shreyas Iyer scored quick-fire half-centuries as India chased down New Zealand’s 203/5 with an over and six wickets to spare in the first of the five T20Is in Auckland on Friday ( 24 January). This was India’s fourth successful chase of 200 or more in T20Is – a milestone no other team has achieved more than twice.
In pursuit of a 10 plus asking rate per over from the start of their run-chase, India showed early intent in their innings, scoring 21 off the first two overs, but lost Rohit Sharma in the process, who miscued one to Ross Taylor at backward point off left-arm spinner Mitchell Santner, giving the bowler his 50th T20I scalp. From there Rahul (56) alongside skipper Virat Kohli (45) took control of the proceedings. Their attacking approach put the home bowlers under pressure and kept India in the game.
Nevertheless, New Zealand had their chances; on the second ball of the sixth over, a horrible mix-up between Kohli and Rahul created run-out opportunity, which the Kiwi fielders failed to utilise. Couple of overs later, Ish Sodhi dropped a skier of Kohli.
Meanwhile, Rahul, just after reaching his fifty, fell to Sodhi’s leg-spin. Soon Kohli too was removed by pacer Blair Tickner. Then Shivam Dube, who was sent in ahead of Manish Pandey, hit a four and a six, but when Sodhi removed him on 13, India still needed 61 off 40 balls.
From there, it was an Iyer (58*) show. The youngster found the ropes in regular intervals and did not allow the New Zealand bowlers any breather whatsoever. At the other end, Pandey played the second fiddle. Eventually, it was Iyer, who finished the game in the 19th over with a massive hit over cow corner.
Earlier, put into bat, the Blackcaps openers Martin Guptill (30) and Colin Munro (59) came out all guns blazing. They knew that on a high-scoring venue like Eden Park, a 200 plus total was a par score. Meanwhile, following an 80-run opening stand, Indian bowlers made some sort of a comeback in the middle-overs with a few quick breakthroughs.
However, in the death overs the Kiwi skipper Kane Williamson (51) and senior pro Taylor (54*) provided the finishing touches and helped their team to go past the 200-run mark. But unfortunately for them, it was not enough to keep the Indian batting at bay.
The second game of the series will be played on Sunday (January 26) at the same venue.
New Zealand 203 for 5 in 20 overs (Munro 59, Taylor 54*, Williamson 51; Jadeja 1 for 18) lost to India 204 for 4 in 19 overs (Iyer 58*, Rahul 56; Sodhi 2 for 36) by 6 wickets.
Player of the match: Shreyas Iyer