New Zealand edged out India in the final match at Hamilton to lay their hands on the T20I series. The win meant that India were unable to cap off their wonderful tour Down Under with another victory.
After being put into bat, New Zealand started off strongly with Seifert and Munro again proving India’s nemesis. Though Seifert departed in the eighth over, his opening partner continued on his merry way to notch up 72.
The middle-order too performed their duties with aplomb and ensured that the hosts breached the 200 mark for the second time in the series.
Set a target of 213, India lost Shikhar Dhawan early to Santner. Vijay Shankar and Rohit Sharma resurrected the innings and provided India with the platform to mount a late assault.
Though the Indians were pretty successful in pulling out the big shots at the end, the total of 213 just proved a step too far for the visitors.
Here is a look at the five major talking points from the game:
#5 Colin Munro finally finds form
Ever since Brendon McCullum hung up his boots, New Zealand has been looking for an equally belligerent option at the top of the order. Colin Munro has been that alternative for a while, yet his form this summer left a lot to be desired.
However, on Sunday, the left-hander was at his aggressive best and came up with a match-winning 72.
Right from the outset, he made his intentions clear and looked menacing. He went down the track to smash Bhuvneshwar Kumar for a six off his first ball and never looked back.
Moreover, he was able to handle the spin threat effectively before perishing to Kuldeep Yadav.
Munro is a pivotal part of New Zealand’s plans going into the World Cup. For years, they have wanted an attacking option at the top to ease the burden of the scoring rate on the likes of Williamson and Taylor. Thus, the importance of a fit and firing Munro can’t be overstated enough.
After an indifferent summer, New Zealand needs to be given credit for persisting with their opener. And if the innings on Sunday is anything to go by, they might just reap the benefits of it in the games to come.
#4 India let themselves down in the field
The days when India used to be one of the poorer teams in the field seems a distant memory. Nowadays, a lot of emphasis is placed on fitness and the performances players can conjure in the field.
Thus, India’s fielding has rarely let them down in the past couple of years. Yet, at Hamilton, their sub-par fielding display was partly to blame for their defeat.
India were sloppy for the majority of the game with a number of misfields, leading to extra runs. Additionally, they contrived to drop several crucial catches and Munro in particular, made them pay dearly.
There is absolutely no doubt that India’s fielding has come off age in recent times. Thus, such a performance caught everyone off guard and the fact that it came in a series decider just magnified their shortcomings on the day.
Though the Indian team has shown the stomach to bounce back after sub-standard showings, they would hope that the average display on Sunday only remains an anomaly.
#3 India’s big guns fail to fire
India arrived at Hamilton boasting of the novel opportunity to end their tour to the Southern Hemisphere without tasting defeat in a single series. Yet, they fluffed their lines as they lost the vital 3rd T20I.
On the day, India’s big players just failed to turn up and it majorly contributed to New Zealand trumping them.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar was expensive with the ball and couldn’t control the hosts’ power-packed batting.
In the batting department, MS Dhoni and Shikhar Dhawan never got going and turned in timid displays. While the latter was dismissed in the first over, the former failed to guide his team home with the stage set for a flourish.
Moreover, India’s skipper, Rohit Sharma was scratchy throughout and ended up putting unnecessary pressure on the other batsmen. When the right-hander finally tried to increase the scoring rate, he fell to Daryl Mitchell.
Over the past couple of years, India has made a habit of standing up when it matters most with their high-profile players invariably coming to the party.
Yet, in the 3rd T20I, none of that materialized and the other players were just left with a little too much to do.
#2 India didn't use their sixth bowler, again
For all the three T20Is, India opted to go in with an extra all-rounder at the expense of a specialist batsman. Though Vijay Shankar performed admirably with the bat, he was never called upon to turn his arm over.
In the first T20I, India conceded well in excess of 200. Several of their bowlers took a pounding. Yet, the Indians failed to properly explore the options they had at their disposal.
Even at Hamilton, New Zealand crossed 200 easily. Three of the five bowlers India used went for more than ten runs per over with Bhuvneshwar and Kuldeep being the exceptions. Thus, the decision to not use Vijay Shankar was bewildering.
In the ODIs, India fiddled with their team combination to ensure that Jadhav could be accommodated in order to provide a fail-safe bowling option. Yet, in the T20Is, when they had a back-up bowler, they refused to bring him to the bowling crease.
India has made some questionable calls over the past few months with regards to selection. Though they got the composition of the team right this time, their reluctance to use their resources properly surely cost them in the end.
One would’ve hoped that India had learnt from their mistakes at Wellington. Yet, on Sunday, it became increasingly clear that they simply didn’t.
#1 India’s impressive tour experiences an anti-climactic end
India embarked on a long tour Down Under back in November. Their first assignment represented getting the better of Australia in the T20 format. Though rain prevented them from claiming a series victory, they ended up sharing the spoils with the hosts.
The Tests came next and the visitors ensured that the weather didn’t block their path to history this time. By the time rain rid them of a win at the SCG, they already had the series in the bag after sumptuous performances at Adelaide and Melbourne.
The ODI series against Australia was slightly more of a contest yet MS Dhoni turned back the clock to record a first bilateral series triumph in Australia.
India then moved to New Zealand and completely demolished the hosts 4-1 in the ODI series. Thus, many expected them to end their tour on a high and pocket the T20 trophy as well, but wasn’t to be.
The hosts thoroughly outplayed the visitors in the 1st T20I and held their nerve to finish off the series in style.
While India might not be enduring sleepless nights for their inability to win in the shortest format against New Zealand, they would’ve definitely wanted to finish the tour on a high.
Yet, one can’t take anything away from a record-breaking tour Down Under for India. While the flight back home might’ve felt a lot better with another trophy to add in the cabinet, India would most certainly be proud of their work in the Southern Hemisphere this time round.