NZ CLINCH ODI SERIES IN A THRILLER
NEW ZEALANDVS INDIA SECOND ODI
Auckland, New Zealand -
Navdeep Saini! All the hype around him was that he could bowl fast. Only here he was staring down a bouncer with a glint in his eye and dispatching it over point for six. Not long after that, he hit boss mode, getting down on one knee and scooping the seam bowlers for four.
Chasing 274, India were down and out at 153 for seven in the 32nd over. And then their No 9 had an identity crisis. Dude batted like he was ruddy Kevin Pietersen, making four times the runs his List A average of 12 suggests. It's as if Eden Park just wouldn't allow for a dead ODI to take place within its borders
There were so many instances of players rising above the ruin to keep this game alive. Ross Taylor's freakish, unbeaten 73 followed on from a collapse of 55 for seven.
Ravindra Jadeja battled like he had been to the future and seen that he would score a half-century himself. Nothing he did, or said, or presented gave even the slightest hint that he ever thought a match-winning hand was beyond him. This after a ten-over spell where he gave away only three boundaries.
New Zealand's ninth-wicket partnership scared up 76 runs in 51 balls. India's eighth wicketpartnership - at the height of an impossible chase - made 76 off 86.
Sheesh! Eden Park just cannot deal with even the idea of a boring match. This one ended with New Zealand winning by the skin of their teeth and taking the series 2-0.
The tension was unbelievable. And rather more apparent on the hosts, who may well have felt those twitches that a super over brings. They needed three wickets when India needed 121 off 113 balls. Plenty of time. Just stick to the plan.
Jadeja kept pinching singles. Saini twisted his body into every which way to protect his stumps. The equation reduced to 85 off 60.
Jadeja was doing the MS Dhoni thing, biding his time and mining twos from within the 30-yard circle. He didn't seem to mind that the required rate was at 9.7 and the reason for that became immediately apparent when Saini tonked Colin de Grandhomme for three fours in the 44th over, and then sheepishly giggling when his partner would come up to punch gloves.
But then, just as it looked like the most improbable finish was on the cards - Saini scoring a fifty and simultaneously unlocking the secret to human flight - a rookie player comes up and knocks his stumps to the ground. Eden Park, man. It really can't help flipping a script.
That Kyle Jamieson strike paved the way to victory, and cemented his candidacy for Man of the Match award. Though honestly, his dismissal of Prithvi Shaw should have sealed it, an incoming delivery the envy of any bowler that stormed through the batsman's defences to wreck his stumps.
Tim Southee clean bowled Virat Kohli at the start of the chase to provide his team the foothold they needed to win the game.
However well India fought after that - and they did, with Shreyas Iyer scoring a fifty as well, that wicket, much as it did in the World Cup semifinal was crucial.
It meant New Zealand don't have to look back so wistfully at their own batting collapse. Losing 55 for seven had ripped away much of the tension from a game that was building up beautifully.
Taylor killed all possibility of a dull game by playing an absolute blinder. His ninth-wicket partnership with Jamieson - who scored a century while facing James Anderson and Stuart Broad in a tour game in 2018 - was entirely ridiculous.
It came after New Zealand had lurched from 142 for one to 197 for eight thanks to the pressure India exerted through the middle overs. New Zealand stopped and stumbled and crashed and burned to 32 for four in that phase.
Taylor was 29 off 47 when the eighth wicket fell and his side didn't look like it would last the remaining nine overs. He had already been part of two run-outs that stole all the momentum away from the innings, especially the one that cost Martin Guptill his wicket when he looked well set on 79.
But then that magic that surrounds this ground, which is home to the Grant Elliot miracle, the Marcus Stoinis heartbreak and the Kane Williamson fist pump, began to show itself.
Taylor was completely infused with it. It's much more compelling to imagine an otherworldly force enabling Taylor to reverse-scoop the best fast bowler in the world nearly all the way for six, with the back of his bat. Jasprit Bumrah does not get treated like this. By anyone. Heck, even the new kid Jamieson was whacking fours off him at the death.
Eden Park just cannot deal with even the idea of a boring cricket match.
New Zealand players celebrate after winning the second ODI against India in Auckland