As has been the case in nearly every successful chase of 300 or above that he has been a part of, Ross Taylor once again played a central role in the victory, shellacking an unbeaten 109 off 84 balls. It was his fourth century in five successful 300-plus chases.
The dismissals of Tom Latham, New Zealand’s stand-in captain in the absence of Kane Williamson, James Neesham and Colin de Grandhomme within four overs of each other briefly lit up the final stages of the game, but Taylor snuffed out any late hopes of another Indian heist.
It might have panned out differently had Ravindra Jadeja taken down the stumps in the first ball of the 48th over, when Taylor attempted a suicidal single after tapping Shardul Thakur’s knuckle ball to point, or if Kuldeep Yadav had not circled around a chance, after running back from short leg, and shelled it when Taylor was on 10.
Taylor made the most of the reprieves and dismantled India with strokes all around the ground, ensuring that New Zealand weren’t to be denied. He raised his 21st hundred off just 73 balls, as New Zealand hardly felt the absence of Williamson in a demanding chase. By the time he had celebrated his century – tongue out and all – Taylor had slashed the required rate to just over four an over, which provided more than enough cushion against India’s late strikes.
Any brief panic that may have set in when Taylor survived the run-out chance at the start of the 48th over quickly dissipated when Mitchell Santner walloped a short ball from Thakur over deep mid-wicket and followed it with an uppish drive to the left of mid-off for four. By the end of that over, the scores were tied and Taylor ensured there wouldn’t be a tie this time around when he pulled Mohammed Shami for a single to long leg.
Thakur finished the night as the most expensive bowler from either side, his nine overs costing 80 runs, but India’s cause was hardly helped by their two spinners, Jadeja and Kuldeep, leaking 148 runs in their 20 overs, while Shami’s 9.1 overs cost 63 runs. The pounding that the rest of the attack collectively took meant that the efforts of Jasprit Bumrah, the only Indian bowler to have gone at under six an over, were hardly enough to stem the bleeding.
Taylor’s big hits were launched from the platform laid by Henry Nicholls, whose 78 gave the chase the early impetus it needed. When Nicholls was sent back, by an underarm throw from Kohli at cover, India had one foot inside the door, with New Zealand at 171/3. But Taylor and Latham clinically pushed India out of the contest. They added 117 runs between overs 31 and 40, which took an irreparable toll on India.
The efforts put to shade the brilliance of Shreyas Iyer, who made his first international century earlier in the day, and KL Rahul, whose big-hitting T20 form translated into another devastating innings. Shreyas first consolidated with skipper Kohli, after India’s openers failed to convert strong starts, taking the team from 54/2 to 156/3.
After Kohli was cleaned up an Ish Sodhi googly that snuck through the gate, Rahul and Shreyas launched India’s innings into the next gear with a 136-run stand replete with clean striking. Shreyas perished trying to accelerate in the last five overs, when he chipped a cross-seamer from Tim Southee, who was once again New Zealand’s most expensive bowler, into the hands of sweeper cover.
But Rahul and Kedar Jadhav launched a late salvo, as India maintained a scoring rate of over 12 in the last four-and-a-half-overs. All that until Ross Taylor decided to show who the real boss is.