Indian spinners revelled on a turning track before the batters made heavy weather of a small target to register a scrappy series levelling win over New Zealand in the second T20 International here on Sunday.
The trio of Yuzvendra Chahal, Washington Sundar and Kuldeep Yadav impressed on a helping surface to limit a self-destructing New Zealand to 99 for eight, their lowest total against India in the shortest format.
It should have been a straight-forward run chase but the top-order comprising Ishan Kishan (19 off 32), Shubman Gill (11 off 9) and Rahul Tripathi (13 off 18) had a tough time again in spin-friendly conditions.
In the end, Hardik Pandya (15 not out off 20) and Suryakumar Yadav (26 not out off 31) took the team over the line with a ball to spare and six wickets in hand.
The series decider will be played in Ahmedabad on Wednesday.
With the likes of Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli not playing T20s since the World Cup last year, opportunities have been presented to the younger players who are yet to make them count.
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Kishan has gone off the boil since his double hundred in Bangladesh while Gill has not been able to carry on his scintillating ODI form into T20s. The stylish right-hander fell while trying to pull a spinner for the second game in a row but was surprised by the amount of turn.
Tripathi, who is getting to play at number three in Kohli‘s absence, was unable to take the attack to the New Zealand spinners.
The Indians felt the pressure and that was evident with the run out of Washington Sundar, who sacrificed his wicket to ensure Surya’s stay in the middle.
Since the asking rate was never an issue, India could afford to stutter in the chase.
A four after 45 balls, coming from Hardik’s bat in the 19th over, released a lot of pressure before the skipper completed the job alongside Surya who hit the winning four.
Earlier, Hardik decided to employ spinners from both ends in the powerplay after opening the bowling himself.
Wrist spinners Kuldeep (1/17) and Chahal (1/4), playing in a T20 together after a while, extracted a lot out of the Lucknow surface while finger spinner Washington (1/17) produced another tidy spell.
Chahal was left licking his lips after the first ball of his opening spell. It was a ripper that pitched on leg stump before beating the outside edge of Finn Allen’s bat. The opener perished two balls later trying to reverse sweep with the ball thudding into his back leg before crashing on to the stumps.
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The in-form Devon Conway too fell to a reverse sweep as the ball kissed his gloves on way to wicketkeeper Ishan Kishan.
New Zealand were soon reduced to 35 for three in seventh over when the dangerous Glenn Phillips missed a straight ball from Deepak Hooda in his attempt to reverse sweep the part time off-spinner.
Daryl Mitchell got a beauty from Kuldeep that came back in sharply to shatter the stumps.
New Zealand bat deep but none of their batters were able to apply themselves on a testing pitch.
Pacer Arshdeep Singh, who has been guilty of bowling too many no balls lately and Shivam Mavi, were only used in the death overs.
Arshdeep did well to take wickets in his two tough overs and conceded only eight runs. Hardik ended with figures of one for 25 in four overs.