The first T20I was called off after rains deemed the conditions unsuitable for play. The bandwagon then moved towards the picturesque Mount Maunganui, where it poured down heavily on the eve of the match, threatening another disappointing washout. The rain gods showered mercy and the players walked onto the field for their drills. Kane Williamson won the toss and chose to bowl first, probably factoring in for DLS to come later should there be a rain interruption.
This was the first assignment for the two teams after a semi-final exit in the T20 World Cup 2022. India opened with two left handers: Rishabh Pant and Ishan Kishan in a bid to adopt and mould their batting template according to the demands of T20 cricket. Both batters looked to play with ‘intent’ and vigour but found the fielders on regular occasions. India got off to a decent start in the powerplay at 42/1 and had SKY playing at No 3. in the absence of Virat Kohli. Merely 4 balls later the umpires decided to send the players off and called for the covers as the rain kept increasing. To great relief of the fans on the ground and worldwide, the stoppage was short and play resumed without any overs being lost. India resumed play and lost Ishan Kishan shortly after. SKY and Shreyas looked to rebuild as the latter picked up the ante in his brief but attacking stay.
Surya looked to play positively throughout the innings and pressed the accelerator once Iyer was dismissed. On a surface where rest of the Indian batters struggled to bat and scored at an average strike rate of 110, Surya struck the ball at a whopping 217.64. He took Ferguson to the cleaners, smashing 22 runs of his over and notching up his second century in just 4 months. The crowd applauded the brilliance of this man as he sported a big beaming smile and soaked all the appreciation. India truly was witnessing mastery of the highest order. India stumbled in the final over losing 3 wickets but had a mammoth total on board thanks to Surya’s magical knock and ended the innings at 191/6.
New Zealand needed both their openers to get off to a flier but ace swing bowler Bhuvneshwar Kumar continued to pick up wickets in the powerplay as he bagged Finn Allen with a beautiful outswinger. Conway and Williamson controlled the innings but fail to score boundaries in the powerplay, ending at a below par total of 32/1. The next over of Sundar went for 17 runs as Conway attacked him and it looked like the Kiwis at put their plan to action but an excellent follow up over by Yuzvendra Chahal meant the pressure mounted on the batters. Conway fell in the next to Washington and India continued the stranglehold with spin from both ends and Glen Phillips walked back after failing to read a wily delivery by Chahal. The New Zealand run chase never gathered any steam as batters struggled to generate any pace and clear the boundaries. Kane Williamson was striking at about 100 before hitting a few boundaries. He eventually fell prey to M Siraj’s slower delivery and the India wrapped up the rest of the batting order to cruise to a comfortable 65 runs victory in the first game of the tour.
The two teams will meet for the 3rd and final T20I of the series at Mclean Park in Napier and the Kiwis will be keen on making the scores even. Will India field the same XI or give an opportunity to players for some crucial gametime.