Rain. Big hits. Fascinating performances on the field. Intelligent bowling; Thiruvananthapuram's Greenfield International Stadium experienced it all in an eight-over shootout between India and New Zealand yesterday.
After a two and half hour delayed start in the third and final Twenty20 International, New Zealand's bowlers delivered well on a sluggish surface to restrict the host to 67 for 5, but India's bowlers upstaged it to keep the visitor to 61 for 6, clinching the match by six runs and the series 2-1. Jasprit Bumrah was the star performer, returning figures 2 for 9.
In chase of a seemingly modest target, the New Zealand openers were sent back within the first nine balls of the innings. Martin Guptill had his stumps rattled by a wobbling, knuckle ball from Bhuvneshwar Kumar. Colin Munro, the centurion from the previous game, tonked a six in the first over, but was fantastically caught by Rohit Sharma off Jasprit Bumrah in the second over to leave New Zealand at 8 for 2.
Kane Williamson and Glenn Phillips were unable to find the boundaries required to keep the run-rate in check, with Yuzvendra Chahal's first over - the third of the innings - fetching just five. Phillips got a couple of fours in the next over delivered by Bhuvneshwar, one off an edge, but the asking rate continued to mount. Clearly fazed by the task at hand, the batsmen resorted to risky singles. One such attempt sent Kane Williamson back as Hardik Pandya shot in an accurate throw at the non-striker's end from mid-on. Phillips tried to slog-sweep the wrong 'un by Kuldeep Yadav only to be caught at deep mid-wicket, reducing the visitors to 28 for 4.
Chahal conceded just three in the next over to increase New Zealand's woes, leaving it 29 to get in the last two overs.
The desperation started to show as New Zealand's batsmen ran at everything, resulting in the run-out of Tom Bruce as they tried to squeeze in a second bye. The visitor was required to get 19 off the last over and the task proved too much as Pandya delivered a tidy over.
Earlier, New Zealand's bowlers called the shots after Williamson won the toss, although cameos from Virat Kohli (13 off 6), Manish Pandey (17 off 11) and Hardik Pandya (14 off 10) gave the hosts a competitive total.
Coming back into the side for an unwell Adam Milne, Tim Southee produced the goods in his very first over, taking out both Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit off successive deliveries in what was just the third over of the innings. With the match reduced to eight overs a side, the openers weren't afforded the luxury of getting their eye in on a tricky surface and never looked very comfortable during their short stints at the crease.
Dhawan was foxed by the offcutter as he looked to charge down, but only managed to skew it to point. Another offcutter accounted for Rohit as he miscued the attempted pull to offer Mitchell Santner his second catch in as many balls.
Sodhi, who had been the pick of the New Zealand bowlers in the previous two games, endured a tough introduction to the crease getting hit by Kohli for a four and a six, but he had the last laugh. Off the penultimate ball of the fourth over, Kohli sent a short ball straight down deep mid-wicket's throat to fall for a six-ball 13.
Tim Southee troubled the Indian batsmen and took figures of 2 for 13 in two overs. Tim Southee troubled the Indian batsmen and took figures of 2 for 13 in two overs.
In his second over, Southee was unable to make further inroads, but kept things quiet with a barrage of slower deliveries which stifled Shreyas Iyer and Manish Pandey. The right-arm seamer finished with useful figures of 2 for 13.
Iyer, who showed glimpses of potential with a 23 in the second game, managed only a run-a-ball six, before holing out to long-off off Sodhi's bowling, giving the legspinner his second scalp for the match and fifth of the series. Pandey then fell to an outstanding bit of fielding, but not before leaving a mark with a four and six off Southee and Sodhi respectively.
New Zealand's fielding let it down in the first match in Delhi, but it was on top of its game today. The athleticism was highlighted in the eighth over when Santner and Colin de Grandhomme combined to take a spectacular catch at the ropes to dismiss Pandey off Trent Boult, crucially also denying India six runs. Santner sprinted to his right from long-on in direction of the ball before springing towards it and, still airborne, flicking it to Grandhomme, who accepted the catch having run in from deep midwicket. Boult went on to finish the over well with a good mix of slower ones and searing yorkers to concede just six in the final over, finishing with figures 1 for 13.
It looked like a job well done for the visitor, but India proved to be the better side.
India will play an IT20 match against England in Cardiff on Friday, 6 June. Tickets are still available priced from £38 for adults and £12 for juniors. Tickets can be purchased online at www.glamorgancricket.com/tickets or by calling the Box Office on 02920 419 311.
*Article first appeared on www.icc-cricket.com