Before the start of the series, the Indian team had won 1 T20I on New Zealand soil. Under the captaincy of Virat Kohli, the Men in Blue showed great resolve from tough situations and whitewashed Kiwis 5-0 in their own back yard which is great achievement.
Apart from the experienced players, few youngsters stood in crisis which made life tough for the Kiwis batting line up which lacked experience in the middle order. After beating Bangladesh, West Indies at home, this series was a tough test keeping mind in the dimensions of the grounds that exist.
Here we look at the 5 key performers for India in the T20I series against New Zealand
- KL Rahul
Picture Courtesy: Scroll.in
KL Rahul continued his sensational form in the 5 matches T20I series against Kiwis. After an exceptional run in the home series against West Indies and Sri Lanka at home, Rahul proved his worth with 224 runs from 5 matches.
In the first match at Eden Park, Auckland on 24th January, New Zealand posted a competitive total of 203 for 5. Chasing this target, Rohit Sharma was dismissed cheaply. Rahul showed his class with big shots against the spinners and pace bowlers which put pressure on the Kiwis bowlers. He reached fifty off just 23 balls which laid a strong foundation. Rahul and Kohli added 99 runs for the 2nd wicket. Trying to hit a big shot, Rahul was dismissed for well made 56 off 27 balls. India won that match by six wickets with 1 over to spare. For his superb knocks, Rahul was awarded man of the match awards.
The Indian bowlers did an excellent job in the 2nd T20I restricting New Zealand to just 132 on a tricky pitch. India lost 2 early wickets of Rohit Sharma and Kohli. Rahul took the responsibility of finishing the job remaining not out on 57 off 50 balls. He was named man of the match for his knock.
In the next three matches, Rahul played with positive intent and gave India decent starts. During the 3rd T20I at Hamilton, he scored 27 off 19 balls. He looked in sublime form in the 4th T20I at Wellington scoring 39 off 26 balls where Rohit Sharma was not playing. Rahul also hit a six and four in the Super Over. In the fifth and final T20I at Bay Oval, Mount Maunganui, the wicket-keeper batsman made 45 off 33 balls.
KL Rahul also did the captaincy job in the fifth T20I with Rohit Sharma injured and Kohli not playing. For his 224 in 5 matches, Rahul was awarded the man of the series.
- Rohit Sharma
Picture Courtesy: Outlook.in
After the failure in the first two T20I matches where he scored 7 and 8 respectively, Rohit Sharma returned to form in the 3rd T20I match at Hamilton with a quickfire 65 off 40 balls. Rohit timed the ball brilliantly and scored 27 runs off Hamish Bennett over to reach his fifty off just 23 balls.
With New Zealand requiring 2 runs off 4 balls, Shami produced magic by dismissing well set Kane Williamson for 95 and dismissed Ross Taylor with a brilliant yorker off the last ball. India required 18 runs to win in the Super Over and with 10 runs required off 2 balls, Rohit Sharma hit 2 successive sixes and helped India register a memorable series win. He remained not out on
Rohit Sharma did not feature in the playing XI for the 4th T20I at Wellington. In the fifth T20I, Rohit took the captaincy job. He batted at number 3 and led from the front scoring 60 off 41 balls before retiring hurt due to calf injury. Despite Rohit Sharma not leading, India won the match by 7 runs.
- Jasprit Bumrah
Picture Courtesy: Firstpost.com
Jasprit Bumrah was simply sensational with the ball in the first six overs and then death overs. In the first T20I match at Auckland, where Shardul Thakur and Mohammed Shami were going over 10 runs per over, Bumrah controlled the run flow in the first six overs.
Bumrah showed his skills in the death overs with slower ones and bouncers to well Ross Taylor which did not allow Kiwis to hit big shots. He went for just 31 runs in his 4 overs picking up 1 wicket.
In the 2nd T20I at Auckland, Bumrah was simply sensational with figures of 1 for 21 in his 4 overs. He was well utilized by Kohli by giving 1 over in his first spell, 1 over in the middle, and 2 in death overs.
Bumrah provided the breakthrough for India in the 3rd T20I dismissing Guptill. After that, he was taken for runs by Kane Williamson giving away 45 runs in his 4 overs. He had an outing in the Super Over as he was taken for 17 runs by Williamson and Guptill.
In the fourth T20I at Wellington, Bumrah returned by getting the breakthrough dismissing Guptill cheaply. He gave away just 20 runs in his 4 overs picking 1 wicket. In the Super Over, he gave away 13 runs and took the wicket of Tim Seifert.
Despite India posting 163 runs in the final over, Bumrah was superb by dismissing Guptill early. He returned to the second spell and produced Yorkers to dismiss Mitchell and Tim Southee to finish with figures of 3/12 in 4 overs. India won the match by 7 runs. He was awarded the man of the match for his brilliant spell.
He finished with 6 wickets in 5 matches and helped India whitewash New Zealand in his own den. Bumrah registered the best figures by an Indian in T20Is against the Kiwis.
- Shardul Thakur
Picture Courtesy: NDTV Sports
Shardul Thakur also did a decent job for Team in the bowling department. In the first T20I match in Auckland, he got the new ball and was smashed for runs. Despite going for 44 runs in his 3 overs, Thakur picked the important wicket of Colin Munro.
In the 2nd T20I played at Auckland, Shardul Thakur was taken for runs but picked the important wicket of Martin Guptill before the power play overs. He gave away 21 runs in his 2 overs with an economy of 10.5 runs per over.
Defending 180 runs to win in the third T20I, Thakur was superb by picking the wicket of Martin Guptill before the power play over and then dismissed Colin de Grandhomme. He finished with figures of 2 for 21 in his 3 overs.
In the fourth T20I match at Wellington, Shardul Thakur performed brilliantly with both bat and ball. India was struggling at 88 for 6, he and Manish Pandey added 43 runs for the 7th wicket. Thakur made 20 off 15 balls and helped India recover.
With the ball, Thakur was expensive in the first 3 overs. With 7 runs required off 6 balls, he dismissed Ross Taylor off the first ball and then dismissed Mitchell. He held his nerves and helped India push the match into Super Over. Thakur took 2 for 33 in his 4 overs and was awarded the man of the match.
Defending 164 runs to win in the fifth T20I, Thakur got the wickets of Mitchell Santer and Scott Kuggelejin to put New Zealand under backfoot. He finished with figures of 2 for 38 in his 4 overs.
He finished the series as leading wicket-taker with 8 wickets from 5 matches. Thakur has proven his mettle with the bat coming lower down the order and hitting big sixes.
- Navdeep Saini
Picture Courtesy: Hindustan Times
Navdeep Saini impressed one and all with his skills. After missing the first 3 matches, the tall lanky fast bowler played in Wellington and Bay Oval, Mount Maunganui.
Defending 166 runs to win, New Zealand were going great guns with Ross Taylor and Tim Seifert. With 11 runs required off 12 balls, Saini was perfect with his Yorkers and variations giving away just 4 runs. He bowled with pace and did not allow the Kiwis batsmen to score runs easily. Saini was superb giving away 29 runs in his 4 overs.
In the fifth T20I match at Bay Oval, Mount Maunganui, India posted 163 after brilliant knocks by KL Rahul and Rohit Sharma. New Zealand was in a comfortable position with Ross Taylor and Tim Seifert at the crease, Saini provided the breakthrough dismissing Seifert to break 99 runs stand for the 4th wicket. He then the big blow dismissing well set Taylor for 53 which ended New Zealand hopes of earning a consolation win.
He finished with figures of 2/23 in his 4 overs. It was an amazing performance by Saini who bowled with pace and never allowed the Kiwis batsmen to score runs easily. The tall lanky fast bowler took 2 wickets in 2 matches.