Skipper Rohit Sharma and Suryakumar Yadav produced sublime knocks as India bungled towards the end before recovering in time to fashion a five-wicket win over New Zealand in the opening T20 International here on Wednesday.
Opener Martin Guptill (70 off 42 balls, 3 fours, 4 sixes) and No.3 batter Mark Chapman (63 off 50 balls, 6 fours, 2 sixes) took New Zealand to 164 for six on a good batting surface. India’s chase was set up by Rohit (48 off 36 balls, 5 fours, 2 sixes), who made his full-time captaincy debut, and Suryakumar (62 off 40 balls, 6 fours, 3 sixes).
The home team was cantering to a comfortable win, but messed up the chase in the final four overs. With New Zealand running out of bowling options, the job was done in the 20th over which was bowled by part-time pacer Daryl Mitchell. Debutant Venkatesh Iyer hit his first ball in international cricket for four before Rishabh Pant got the winning runs.
The game marked the start of a new chapter in Indian cricket with Rohit as T20 skipper and Rahul Dravid as head coach. India raced to 50 for no loss in five overs with Rohit playing some delightful shots. He got going with back-to-back fours off Tim Southee in the third over before unleashing his signature front pull off the final ball of the over.
Southee and Trent Boult were put under pressure upfront by both openers. KL Rahul (15) got into the act with a massive six over deep square leg off Boult before Rohit hit another pull shot to collect 21 runs from the over. Rahul fell to a soft dismissal on the first ball of Mitchell Santner’s spell to give New Zealand a wicket against the run of play.
Suryakumar meant business from ball one and the most memorable shot of his innings was the pick-up stroke off Lockie Ferguson to get to his third T20I fifty. Both Rohit and Suryakumar should have gone on to finish the game, but that didn’t happen.
Earlier, Guptill and Chapman ensured New Zealand was well-placed for a 180-plus total, but Ravichandran Ashwin’s double strike in one over put the brakes on the scoring rate. Ashwin was the pick of the bowlers for India, taking two for 23 off four overs, while pacer Bhuvneshwar Kumar (2/24 off 4 overs) got his swing back.
In the 14th over, Ashwin struck twice at a timely juncture for his team with New Zealand getting to 123 for three. He found the stumps of Chapman with a tossed up off-spinner while Glenn Phillips had no clue about his famed carrom ball.
BRIEF SCORES: New Zealand 164/6 in 20 overs (M Guptill 70, M Chapman 63, R Ashwin 2/23, Bhuvneshwar 2/24) lost to India 166/5 in 19.4 overs (Suryakumar 62, Rohit 48, T Boult 2/31)