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Jasprit Bumrah (2 for 9) and Yuzvendra Chahal (0 for 8) led India’s task of strangling New Zealand’s batsmen and paved the way for a fine series victory in Thiruvananthapuram’s international debut on Tuesday (November 7). At the halfway stage when New Zealand players high-fived each other on their way back to the dugout, it appeared to be India’s game to lose. But on a gripping surface and against a very smart bowling unit, the target of 68 turned out to be a lot bigger than New Zealand anticipated.

The lengthy rain break that was punctuated by a constant drizzle allowed some moisture to settle under the pitch that was bound to have an impact. Kane Williamson smartly decided to put India in on what turned out to be a gripping surface and seemed to have instructed his bowlers to keep their pace down. Despite the reduction in number of overs to eight, neither Rohit Sharma nor Shikhar Dhawan could freely blaze away at the start. Dhawan had to step down the track against Boult to negate some away movement but could hardly middle it.

The notoriety of the surface was evident in the first ball of the second over, when left-arm spinner Mitchell Santner got one to bounce awkwardly and beat a befuddled Rohit Sharma to thud into the keeper’s gloves. Santner used the favourable pitch well and varied his pace to keep Rohit from slogging his way out of trouble. The real test however, came in the third over when Tim Southee saw enough reason to only deal in cutters. Rohit and Dhawan had to get a move on but ended up giving Santner two catches off as many deliveries while failing to read Southee’s decision to take the pace off the ball. Virat Kohli arrived and made it known that a good start was seldom going to be enough for New Zealand to sail through as he carted a six and a four off Ish Sodhi. The legspinner, however, swiftly got one over the Indian captain, who mistimed his third big hit of the game to lead the crowd into a complete lull.

Manish Pandey and Hardik Pandya tried to get a move on but the big shots didn’t come as frequently as the duo would’ve liked as India eventually finished with 67 for 5.

For the second time in the short fixture, the crowd was sent into complete silence – this time by Colin Munro who smashed a towering six off the second ball of the first over from Bhuvneshwar Kumar to kick-start New Zealand’s chase. Bhuvneshwar fought back with a hat-trick of knuckle balls to Martin Guptill, who read none and had his off-stump knocked back on the third. India received a major filip in the second over when Rohit completed a blinder of a catch while running back from mid-on to end Munro’s stay.

Williamson had much to do and ended up having an off day when he struggled to cope with Chahal’s flatter trajectories and shortened length. Like India, New Zealand too struggled to get the big hits going early, giving India the hope of pulling off a heist. As has been the case since the limited-over series against Australia, Chahal seemed to be bowling to a specific plan, luring the batsmen with an outside-the-off-stump length. From 16 for 2 in 3 overs, New Zealand desperately needed a release over, but Kohli decided to nip that thought in the bud by throwing the ball back to Bhuvneshwar. Glenn Phillips managed to collect two fours, but only two runs came off the rest of the four balls, allowing India to keep the pressure squarely on the visitors.

The crucial fifth over was where the game tilted in India’s favour when India prised away two wickets – one of Williamson through a direct hit from Pandya and the other a fine catch on the boundary line that ended Phillips’s stay. Colin de Grandhomme’s presence in the middle kept New Zealand’s hopes up but Chahal bowled a teasing over in which the visitors could only manage three singles.

In consultation with MS Dhoni and Rohit, Kohli saw it fit to try and kill the game in the penultimate over by giving Pandya the ball when New Zealand needed 29 off 12. India further chipped away, picking two more wickets but New Zealand managed to score 10 runs to go into the final over needing 19.

Pandya’s task of defending the runs in the final over was thrown in a bit of a quandry when he hurt his left hand while trying to stop a shot from de Grandhomme. Pandya grimaced in pain and needed some attention from the physio before resuming his over. Grandhomme turned the screws further with a six off the following ball. The equation was down to 12 off the last three balls but the medium pacer eventually prevailed to give India a six-run victory.

Brief Scores: India 67/5 in 8 overs (Manish Pandey 17, Hardik Pandya 11; Tim Southee 2-13, Ish Sodhi 2-23) beat New Zealand 61/6 in 8 overs (Colin de Grandhomme 17*; Jasprit Bumrah 2-9) by 6 runs

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