India 385/9 (Gill 112, Rohit 101, Pandya 54, Tickner 3-76, Duffy 3-100) new zealand 295 (Conway 138, Nicholls 42, Thakur 3-45, Kuldeep 3-62, Chahal 2-43) by 90 runs
The bowlers’ job became apparent in the third over when Rohit lofted Jacob Duffy over midwicket without any pace, but the ball kept eluding the chasing fielder. In Duffy’s next over, the pitch presented itself in all its beauty. Gill hooks the short ball over long leg for a massive six, and Rohit lofts the short-of-length ball down the ground for a six that is over long-on.
Lockie Ferguson, who had bowled a maiden in his first three overs and conceded only six runs, was given 22 runs in the fourth over. Apart from one full toss, he did not bowl a single bad ball. Gill only trusted the pitch and used a fast outfield.
It was almost a contest now. Rohit responded by taking 17 runs in the tenth over, hooking and charging Duffy. As Gill hit fours with leg glances and an extra cover drive to bring up his half-century, Rohit matched it with two sixes off Mitchell Santner to bring up his own.
Push went for fours, miss-hits went for sixes, and batsmen flicked outside off and hit sixes without reaching the pitch of the ball. However, most of the shots were well timed. A ball that summed it up well for the bowlers, Daryl Mitchell got excited when Rohit hit one high in the air, but was left disappointed when it was cleared for long on.
Mitchell was bowling possibly because New Zealand did not want to feed off-spinner Michael Bracewell two sets of right-handed batsmen. When Bracewell finally came, Gill welcomed him with four fours over extra cover and a massive slog-sweep six to join Rohit in the 90s.
Rohit scored a century in 83 balls, Gill in 72 balls. After reaching there, he tried to go even faster. Rohit tries to put Bracewell into the stands but misses a full, straight delivery. Gill hit Blair Tickner for a six off the bowling before being dismissed on a slower bouncer.
Perhaps what helped New Zealand’s comeback was that India’s incoming batsmen tried to bat in a way that did justice to the start, thus taking the risk that the older, softer ball might not qualify. Keeps Rohit and Gill blasted the first 26 with ease. By then he had hit 22 fours and 10 sixes. When he batted, the pitch looked too flat, the ground too small and the outfield too fast.
Slower balls were caught on the surface as the wicket fell, Pandya had to delay the final charge. When it came, it was spectacular as Pandya and Thakur put on 57 runs in overs 46 to 49.
Even though Pandya sent back Finn Allen in the first over, Conway played the dual role of taking New Zealand to the back half with wicket in hand and keeping the rate of demand under control. Conway has had to take more risks than Gill and Rohit, but has come at an alarming rate for India. The pull, slog-sweep and reverse-sweep all flew in for runs. When he missed, he missed completely. When he was not close to the ball, he made sure to hit hard as there was every possibility that he would clear the short ground.
Now it was about the wicket of Conway, which came through a drilled pull straight into Rohit’s midriff over midwicket. However, India knew from experience that it’s not over until you take out Michael Bracewell. Kuldeep did so with a deliberate wide down the leg side to Ishan Kishan, who looked to stump the first missed. Now it was really over.
Siddharth Monga is assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo