NAGPUR: New Zealand’s spinners became unlikely heroes on Tuesday, leading their side to a stunning 47-run victory over favourites India in the World Twenty20 opening group match in Nagpur.
The Kiwis stumbled to 126 for seven after electing to bat first, but their slow bowlers bamboozled India who could manage just 79 runs in 18.1 overs — their lowest ever score in T20 cricket on home soil.
Their previous lowest score at home was 92 against South Africa in Cuttack last year.
The spin trio of Mitchell Santner, Nathan McCullum and Ish Sodhi combined forces to keep New Zealand’s unbeaten T20 record against India intact — the Kiwis have now won five T20s in six meetings.
Man of the match Santner (4-11) bowled exceptionally well on a slow track to register the best bowling figures by a New Zealander in T20 cricket.
“There was a bit of spin out there, they bowled well to keep us to 120, that was below par, but we got stuck in and I’m delighted with the win,” said Santner.
India, who have been firm favourites to win the title, were never in the chase after losing their openers early and, with the exception of Virat Kohli (23), none of the Indian batsmen could come up with any answers to the inspired Kiwi bowling attack.
Kohli, during his 27-ball stay, offered some resistance on a slow track, but the introduction of Sodhi spelt the end for the star batsman.
Chasing a wildish leg-spinner, Kohli was caught behind as the packed stadium was stunned into silence with the writing clearly on the wall.
Skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni then tried hard to dig India out of their hole but his valiant run-a-ball 30 made little difference in the end.
Earlier, hard-hitting Corey Anderson hit an uncharacteristically slow 34-run knock to help New Zealand improve their plight after being reduced to 61 for four.
A dramatic first over from off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin saw Martin Guptill smash a six on the very first ball of the match only to lose his wicket on the next, setting the tone for an exciting T20 extravaganza.
The spin-fast combination of Ashwin and Ashish Nehra deployed by Dhoni worked in India’s favour as the Kiwis were left stuttering with skipper Kane Williamson also departing for single figures.
Anderson, whose 42-ball stay included just three boundaries, then stuck around with Ross Taylor and Santner to counter the Indian bowlers.
India, determined to become the first team to win the World T20 title twice, didn’t put a foot wrong and backed their bowlers’ effort with some clean fielding that included two run outs.
In the end, Luke Ronchi’s unbeaten 11-ball 21 gave some respect to the total, which in the end proved enough to make an opening impression in the sixth edition of the tournament.
Pakistan face Bangladesh at Kolkata while England meet West Indies at Mumbai in the two group matches on Wednesday. -DN
THE PASHTUN TIMES