What the likes of Virender Sehwag, VVS Laxman, and Rahul Dravid did not get, Ashish Nehra got. He announced, without discussing with the selectors if he was or wasn’t a part of the future T20I plans for the team, that November 1st will be the last day for him in India’s colours. He was part of the squad during the T20I series against Australia, but did not play a game. So when he came out and told the world that the match at Feroz Shah Kotla against New Zealand will be his last, there were whispers about whether Nehra had “earned” a farewell match. Will the ruthless Indian think-tank pick Nehraji in the first match of a series and upset their balance against the No 1 ranked T20I side in the world? Will be he ready for it, if selected? Or will he be just a spectator from the sidelines as India plotted their first win against Black Caps in the shortest format?

As it turned out, he would be selected. As it turned out, after being asked by Kane Williamson to bat first, the Indian batsmen would mount a three-part assault on the New Zealand bowlers to make sure Nehra can just amble in to the bowling crease relaxed and bowl the final four overs of a career that began in 1999.

Overs 1-10: Dhawan outshines Rohit

The scoreboard read 80/0 after the first half of India’s innings. It was, on paper, an excellent start for India. But of the two openers, only one had got going. Rohit Sharma wasn’t playing much different to how he would usually start an innings in ODI. He was taking his time, getting his eye in, sizing up the bowlers. But this was a 20-over match and India were already halfway through to the end. His 25 off 28 balls at the point of time was a laboured effort, with one six and one four. He scored the remaining 15 runs off 26 balls. Even those two hits to the boundary were dodgy at best – the six was a cut off Tim Southee that took his outside edge and just managed to clear the fielder at third man. The four came in an over from Ish Sodhi where he was beaten by the turn on a couple of occasions and released the pressure by playing a pre-meditated inside out cover drive that just cleared the fielder at the catching position. He was also dropped by Southee when he was on 16. He then couldn’t connect a free hit well and found the fielder at the fence with that as well.

At the other end, Dhawan was striking the ball like a dream. Even when he was dropped in the second over of the match, it was a shot that flew from the middle of his bat at a frightening pace towards Mitch Santner who lost it in the crowd. He was cutting and pulling and flicking the ball off his pads like he had been batting all day before the match started. He scored 47 off the 80 runs India scored in the first 10 overs and took just 34 balls for it.

Overs 10-16: Rohit joins the party

As he has often showed in the ODI format, Rohit once again proved a slow start doesn’t mean a low score for him. The 11th over is where he wrestled the momentum back in his favour. With Colin Munro running in to bowl his dibbly-dobblies, Rohit decided to up the ante. First, a lofted heave over long on that he hit so early that it remained in the air for what felt like an eternity, climbing and climbing, before dropping beyond the straight screen. Then, a half-volley was dispatched to long off, as if the pent up frustration of not finding his timing all evening was released in one shot.

What followed was a phase where the two openers took apart the New Zealand bowling with ease. There was a 13-ball phase where the scoring went like this: 6 0 6 4 4 1 0 6 1 4 4 1 2.

Dhawan was hitting flat sixes on the leg side, Rohit was using power over elegance to find the short boundaries with increasing frequency. While the first 80 runs of the partnership came in 60 balls, the next 78 came in 38, with Rohit contributing 45. And just like that, the two had put together the highest opening partnership for India in T20Is and the third highest among all teams.

Overs 17-20: The Kohli cameo

The 16th over was a blip in the Indian innings. They lost two wickets to Sodhi and only two runs were scored in that over. In an innings where India were fully in control, those six balls by the Kiwi leg-spinner were an anomaly.

It was just the calm before the Kohli storm.

Sure it was just a 11-ball knock from the Indian captain, but his 26 at the end of the innings was the difference between India faltering after a blistering start to end up with a below par score and posting a match-winning total on a pitch where batting was potentially going to be easier in the second half.

Kohli played shots that were incredible, yet something we have to come to expect from his MRF Genius willow. There was a six over long on off Colin de Grandhomme where he picked up the off-cutter early, and used the sheer power of his bottom hand and the flexibility of his wrists to flick it almost out of the Kotla. Then there was a stand-and-deliver pick up shot that sailed over the boundary line. Then there was a six over midwicket where he stepped down the track and despite the ball being close to his body and at good length, just jabbed it – those wrists were at it again.

Dhawan and Rohit had made 80 runs each, but those three sixes from Kohli were the shots of a man who could conjure magic out of nothing. He came, he saw and he conquered his home crowd with clean hitting that brought back memories of the 2016 IPL season.

At the end of the match, Nehra had the pleasure of bowling his final over in cricket with a run-up that is usually seen in net sessions, knowing his teammates had set up an easy last day at the office before he punched out – without a wicket to his name but with that trademark smile on his face.