No high fin­ish to tour Down Un­der

In­dia com­plete their 3-month trip to the South­ern Hemi­sphere with 4-run loss in thrilling third T20I, con­cede series to NZ 1-2

DNA (Daily News & Analysis) Mumbai Edition - - FRONT PAGE - —PTI

Hamil­ton: New Zealand de­nied In­dia a per­fect fin­ish to their highly suc­cess­ful tour Down Un­der by clinch­ing the T20 series 2-1 with a nar­row four-run win in the se­ries­de­cid­ing third match here on Sun­day.

In­dia savoured a his­toric Test and ODI bi­lat­eral series win in Aus­tralia be­fore record­ing their big­gest ODI series win on New Zealand soil.

A first ever T20 series win would have been an ic­ing on the cake but the hosts held their nerves to pull off a thrilling vic­tory. With Sun­day’s re­sult, In­dia have lost their first T20 series af­ter win­ning nine and draw­ing one.

In­dia needed to knock off a stiff 213-run tar­get to bring cur­tains on a mem­o­rable three-month tour in a be­fit­ting man­ner but fell just short.

Ex­ploit­ing bat­ting friendly con­di­tions at the small Sed­don Park ground, New Zealand cut the In­dian at­tack to shreds to post an im­pos­ing 212/4. Opener Colin Munro pro­duced a 40-ball 72 and shared 80 with fel­low opener Tim Seifert (43) to lay foun­da­tion for a big score.

Krunal Pandya was the most ex­pen­sive of the In­dian bowlers, bleed­ing 54 runs in his four-over quota. If it was not for left-arm Chi­na­man bowler Kuldeep Ya­dav’s (2/26) tight bowl­ing in the mid­dleovers and Bhu­vnesh­war Ku­mar (1/37), In­dia would have got a big­ger tar­get to chase.

In­dia cap­tain Ro­hit Sharma, who usu­ally bats ex­plo­sive in such sit­u­a­tions, made an un­char­ac­ter­is­tic 32-ball 38 and it also hurt In­dia’s chances. Vi­jay Shankar (43 off 28) played a use­ful knock, though, at the top af­ter Shikhar Dhawan (5) fell early.

Rishabh Pant (28 off 12) and Hardik Pandya (21 off 11) in­fused some life into In­dia’s chase with some bru­tal hit­ting but per­ished while try­ing to keep up with a steep scor­ing rate. Ma­hen­dra Singh Dhoni (2 off 4) also could not do much.

In­dia needed 16 runs off the fi­nal over and Di­nesh Karthik (33* off 16) af­ter tak­ing a dou­ble off the first ball, stunned the crowd and his team­mates by re­fus­ing to take a sin­gle in the third ball. Krunal (26* off 30) had reached the striker’s end but Karthik did not run, send­ing his part­ner back.

Karthik could only man­age a sin­gle off the next ball as Southee bowled a straight ball. By then, the match had clearly slipped out of In­dia’s hands. Both Karthik and Krunal did ex­ceed­ingly well to take the game into the fi­nal over but their un­beaten 63run stand off 28 balls did not prove to be enough.

New Zealand bowlers fared much bet­ter than In­dia, con­sis­tently hit­ting the short-of-length, which proved to be key on this small ground. The runs came at a steady rate with just an odd bound­ary com­ing in be­tween.

Pant, though, changed the pace of In­dian in­nings with his scin­til­lat­ing bat­ting. It rained sixes as the Delhi left­hander took Sodhi and Sant­ner to clean­ers. But debu­tant Blair Tick­ner ended his stay and Hardik be­gan and ended his stay in the same fash­ion.

Ear­lier, Ku­mar was hit for a six by Munro in his first over but the lean pacer re­sponded with splen­did block-hole de­liv­er­ies in the next over.

The pres­sure of dot balls prompted Seifert to go af­ter Vi­jay Shankar. He went for a big hit but edged it to­wards third man re­gion where Shankar made a valiant ef­fort but just fell short as he could just touch the ball. It was a tough chance but Seifert, who was on 11, got a re­prieve.

In­dian bowlers had con­ceded 79 runs in first seven overs when Ro­hit brought Kuldeep and the leg-spin­ner straight away made an im­pact, by getting Seifert stumped.

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