Rohit Sharma became the highest run scorer in Twenty20 international history Friday as India romped to a seven-wicket win over New Zealand in the second T20 in Auckland.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni watched from the 22 yards distance as his heir-apparent Rishabh Pant showed spunk, guiding India to a comfortable series-levelling win.
The chase was set up by skipper Sharma (50 off 29 balls) in company of Shikhar Dhawan (30, 31 balls) with a 79-run stand after Krunal Pandya got three wickets to restrict the hosts to 158/8. With whirlwind fifty, Rohit also became the top run-getter in the format, surpassing Martin Guptill.
READ: Rohit Sharma becomes most prolific T20I batsmen on a record-breaking day
Dhoni would have been pleased as he saw Pant control what could have been a tricky 159-run-chase with an unbeaten 40 off 28 balls. The series is now tied 1-1 with the decider in Hamilton on Sunday.
With the former India captain (20* off 17 balls) playing the role of a mentor at the other end, the 44-run stand was very significant as Indian cricket slowly moves towards a change of guard in coming days.
Pant’s one-handed six off Tim Southee or the bowler’s back drive off Scott Kuggeleijn to finish off the match were reminiscent of Dhoni’s best days. He hit four boundaries and a six in all.
The innings would certainly help him make a strong case for being included in the World Cup squad.
Earlier, Krunal enhanced his reputation as a steady short format bowler with three important breakthroughs as India restricted New Zealand to a below-par 158/8.
The player-of-the-match awardee Krunal (3/28 in 4 overs) dismissed Colin Munro (12) and skipper Kane Williamson (20) to peg the Black Caps back early in the innings.
In between, Krunal also got the controversial wicket of Daryl Mitchell (1), who fell pray to an umpiring howler, when ‘Hotspot’ showed a clear inside edge onto the pads.
However, Colin de Grandhomme, then counter-attacked, scoring a blistering 50 off 28 balls, adding 77 runs with Ross Taylor (42 off 36 balls) for the fifth wicket.
Once de Grandhomme was sent back to the dug-out by Hardik Pandya (1/36 in 4 overs) and Taylor was run-out, New Zealand’s chances of a big total went up in smoke.
It was a much-improved performance by the Indian bowlers with Bhuvneshwar Kumar (1/29 in 4 overs) removing Tim Seifert (12) in the very third over with a fuller delivery, inducing an inside edge to Mahendra Singh Dhoni behind the stumps.
However, it was Krunal, who really applied the brakes after being brought inside the Powerplay overs.
The elder Pandya quickly found the ideal length, bowling his usual wicket to wicket deliveries with a flatter trajectory. Both Munro and Williamson got skidders. While the left-handed opener Munro hit one straight to the cover, Williamson was caught plumb in-front.
At 50/4, it was de Grandhomme, who took charge as he attacked Yuzvendra Chahal (0/37 in 4 overs), hitting him for a couple of sixes. When he was just about threatening to take the game away, de Grandhomme smacked one straight to covers in skipper Rohit’s hands. Young Khaleel Ahmed (2/27) polished off two wickets in the end. He and Bhuvneshwar also bowled 18 dot balls between them.