Half-centuries from Lokesh Rahul and Shreyas Iyer led India to a six-wicket victory over New Zealand in the opening Twenty20 match in Auckland Friday with the winning runs coming with an over to spare.
Talk of possible travel fatigue after only arriving in New Zealand three days ago, did not eventuate as Virat Kohli’s men hauled in New Zealand’s 203 for five with Rahul making 56 and Iyer unbeaten on 58.
New Zealand did not help their chances by bowling 10 wides and missing wicket opportunities with sloppy fielding.
Kohli won the first play of the day when he called correctly at the toss and elected to bowl.
Half centuries by Colin Munro (59), Kane Williamson (51) and Ross Taylor (54 not out) paved the way for New Zealand to pass the 200 mark, but with Eden Park’s short boundaries -- there were 20 sixes in the match -- it was not enough against one of the best sides in the world.
When India started their run chase, New Zealand took the bold option of throwing the new ball to spinner Mitchell Santner for the second over and after conceding 12 off his first three deliveries the left-armer claimed the wicket of Rohit Sharma for seven.
But it was merely a momentary blip as Kohli joined Rahul to pound the New Zealand attack.
At 59 for one in the sixth over New Zealand butchered a double chance to remove Rahul on 27 when he was slow away on a quick single.
Southee missed the first shy at the stumps and the mid-wicket fielder missed the return throw with Rahul still short of the crease.
Kohli on 33 skied a Blair Tickner delivery in the ninth over which Ish Sodhi had plenty of time to get under, but he missed the ball completely.
But when the pair had put on 99 off 50 deliveries New Zealand briefly fought back as the catches stuck.
Tim Southee caught Rahul and Shivam Dube in the deep and a diving Martin Guptill accounted for Kohli (45) as India slumped from one for 99 to four for 142 in the 14th over.
But Iyer and Manish Pandey recovered the momentum for the tourists and knocked off the remaining 62 runs needed for victory in 34 balls with the match finishing on Iyer’s third six.
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