A nervy India nearly committed harakiri before squeezing past New Zealand by five wickets in the first T20I on Wednesday. India made a meal of the 165-run chase, leaving it to the very end to get the job done.
The home team needed 10 off the final over, bowled by part-time medium pacer Daryl Mitchell. Venkatesh Iyer, making his T20I debut, struck Mitchell for a four but was dismissed the very next ball. It took a heave over mid-off from Rishabh Pant to finally shut New Zealand out of the contest. The Rohit Sharma-Rahul Dravid combination got off to a winning start, but it was not without some tense moments.
Just a short while earlier, India was cruising along, with just 23 runs needed off four overs.
Rohit, in his first match as captain after Virat Kohli stepped down, produced a classy 36-ball 48 to steer India onto the winning path. Suryakumar Yadav (62, 40b, 6×4, 3×6) was equally impressive, matching his experienced partner shot for shot.
Rohit got going with two crisp fours through the offside in the third over, bowled by Tim Southee. He was brutal on the short stuff, opening his hips and swatting a couple of effortless pulls for huge sixes. The skipper fell to a soft dismissal, lobbing a slower bouncer from Trent Boult to short fine-leg.
Suryakumar kept attacking, even scooping a length ball from pacer Lockie Ferguson way into the stands over fine-leg.
Earlier, New Zealand posted a respectable total, on the back of a 109-run second wicket partnership from Martin Guptill (70, 42b, 3×4, 4×6) and Mark Chapman (63, 50b, 6×4, 2×6). The duo got together after opener Daryl Mitchell was castled by a perfect inswinger from Bhuvneshwar Kumar in the very first over the match.
Guptill and Chapman started steadily, rotating the strike and hitting the occasional boundary. Chapman, who did not get a game in the ICC T20 World Cup, made it count with his first T20I fifty for New Zealand. Chapman had started his international career with Hong Kong, before receiving his first New Zealand call-up in early 2018. Chapman equalled his highest international score, which he made for Hong Kong against Oman in 2015.
Offspiner Ravichandran Ashwin recorded the breakthrough in the 14th over, with a flighted delivery which foxed Chapman. Ashwin applied the skids by removing Glenn Phillips for a duck in the same over.
Guptill held the innings together, accelerating when the pacers came into the attack. Guptill hammered Mohammed Siraj, Bhuvneshwar and Deepak Chahar for a six each, and threatened to propel New Zealand to a huge score. A mishit off Chahar, however, cut his essay short. Chahar, well aware of the immense value of the wicket, gave Guptill a stern send off.
With Guptill gone, the Kiwis lost the chance to record a 200-plus score. Tim Seifert, Rachin Ravindra and Mitchell Santner struggled to connect the big hits. Bhuvneshwar conceded just five runs in the 19th over, followed by a similarly tidy final over from Siraj.
Venkatesh Iyer, who made his T20I debut, did not get to bowl.