India wouldn’t have expected a target of 243 to trouble them. But it did. Their top order tends to finish games off. Not this time. That left MS Dhoni and a set of batsmen not accustomed to finishing an innings. New Zealand exploited that to pull off a six-run victory and level the series.
It was a chaotic scrap to the finish, which brought a noisy crowd at the Feroz Shah Kotla to their feet in the final stages. India were 172 for 6 – and the man dismissed was the Indian captain, who was also their best option against an equation of 71 runs in 63 balls. Then a goofy over from Martin Guptill – four wides, 10 balls, and two wickets – brought Hardik Pandya front and centre for the second match in a row.
In Dharamsala, he offered a glimpse at his utility as a new-ball bowler. In Delhi, he suggested he has promise as a man who could come in late and stay sensible under pressure. He wrestled an equation of 48 off 36 balls down to 10 off six.
In that time New Zealand’s disciplines were taking a beating. It was the final overs of the innings, but they didn’t even look for the yorker. Most of their success on Thursday was the result of the fast bowlers hitting back of a length on a pitch that was slow and holding up, meaning neither using the pace nor forcing it was a good idea.
The problem was, late into the night, the dew started to take effect. New Zealand’s fielders, who were simply remarkable, were suddenly slipping all over the place. It was the kind of situation – with things starting to turn at the worst possible time – that could have broken anyone’s resolve.
But that’s when the big players stand up. On came Trent Boult – back in the XI after a rest – and he conceded only six runs in the penultimate over and also got rid of Pandya. Tim Southee India’s fate with a yorker.