KL Rahul and Rohit Sharma struck half-centuries to set the base of a comfortable chase against New Zealand in Ranchi with India winning the second T20I by seven wickets and taking an unassailable 2-0 lead to seal the three-match series on Friday night. After limiting New Zealand to a below-par 153/6, powered by the century stand for the opening wicket, the hosts overhauled the target in 17.2 overs at the JSCA International Stadium Complex. Rahul scored a stroke 65 off 49, an innings that featured six fours and two sixes. He fell trying to rush his team towards the target in the 14th over but not before adding 117 runs with his captain who made 55 off 36 and fell to a rather soft dismissal.
Rohit struck just one four but peppered the Ranchi night sky with five sixes. The duo departed in quick succession and when Suryakumar Yadav dragged one back to be bowled on 1, the memories of Jaipur became afresh when India was pushed to the final over despite being in a rather comfortable position in the chase before winning the series opener. However, this time, Rishabh Pant ensured no late drama as he smoked two huge sixes off James Neesham to get his team home.
However, India could have been left to chase a lot more if it wasn’t for their spin duo of Ravichandran Ashwin and Axar Patel who applied the squeeze in the middle overs to neutralize the blazing start given by opener Martin Guptill whose 31 off 15 got New Zealand 64 runs for the cost of one wicket in the Powerplay. New Zealand skipper Tim Southee admitted that India managed to slow them down in the middle overs especially since Rohit Sharma handed the ball to his spinning duo of Ravichandran Ashwin and Axar Patel. The duo gave away just 64 runs from 7 to 16 overs with Ashwin (1/19) and Axar (1/26) dominating the New Zealand batters in the dew-laden condition.
“Credit to India, they pulled it back nicely after the first six overs. They played better cricket and didn’t give us a chance with the bat as well,” he said. New Zealand never really quite recovered from this middle over stutter as they bowled badly as well, failing to take the wickets of KL Rahul and Rohit Sharma as the openers ran away with a hundred-run stand for the first wicket. This was their fourth consecutive stand between the openers. Southee reflected on how the dew might have played a part in it. “It was wet for both teams and it was only slightly more in the second innings.
We knew dew would be a factor, but India was too good on this day. We will now go to a new venue, a quick turnaround, and we’ll assess when we get to Kolkata.” The Kiwis were off to a flier in the powerplay with Guptill smashing his way to a 15-ball 31 (2x6s, 3x4s) after being dropped on eight. That innings saw Guptill (3231 runs) surpass star Indian batsman Virat Kohli (3227) as the leading run-getter in T20 Internationals. Guptill smashed Bhuvenshwar for back-to-back boundaries but there was an opportunity in the fourth ball when he mishit over the long-off region. KL Rahul made a terrific attempt running backward and nearly got hold of the ball before it slipped out of his hands.
After conceding 14 runs in his first over, Bhuvneshwar gave away 13 in his next over with Guptill smacking him over his head for a six. Daryl Mitchell (31 off 28) and Mark Chapman (21 off 17) threatened to extend the good work of Guptill but Indian bowlers made a strong comeback in the second half of the New Zealand innings. Debutant Harshal Patel finished with 2/25 from his four overs while Ashwin, Axar, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, and Deepak Chahar chipped in with a wicket each as the tourists failed to flourish in the death overs. The third and final T20I of the series will be played in Kolkata on Sunday.