With Pakistan very certain to secure one semi-final berth and New Zealand joining Afghanistan for the other, India’s campaign may be over sooner than planned.
India used to play T20s like ODIs, concentrating on singles and twos and considering boundaries to be extras. This format necessitates at least one experiment. As a result, they decided to invest in a new type of player. The kind who could hit sixes from the first ball. Ishan Kishan, for example. He batted first in this match, ahead of the experienced Rohit Sharma, and fell in the third over.
Against this Indian squad, early wickets are essential. One of their top three batsmen going long into an innings is crucial to their limited-overs success. New Zealand did well to deny that luxury, as Tim Southee and Trent Boult scored the first two goals of the powerplay to set the tone for the main event.
Between the sixth and seventeenth overs, India went 71 balls without striking a boundary. Santner and Sodhi had complete control of this game. The secret was in their bowling lengths. Both spinners were careful not to overfill their pitches to the point where a hitter might plant his front foot and send them out of the park. They were similarly cautious about providing them enough space to free their arms. Santner and Sodhi were able to put so much pressure on India by hitting the in-between region frequently – while also targeting the stumps – that they finally crumbled to their second-lowest total in T20I history. 7 for 110.
Setting a total in Dubai is difficult. The conditions are the most difficult at the start of the game, but dew arrives in the second innings and aids the ball’s arrival on the bat. Both teams were aware of the anomaly, but only one of them was able to adjust to it appropriately. Take, for example, Kohli’s dismissal. In the 11th over, India were 48 for 3 and he had only scored 9 from 16 balls. Dire. Yes, but he needed to put all of it aside and focus on batting the 20 overs. He bowed to the pressure and played a low-percentage shot instead of waiting for the back part of the innings when scoring runs becomes substantially easier. Sodhi had bowled that ball, a flung up leg break that sank at the last second, in search of that hit, and had the Indian skipper caught at long-on.
New Zealand’s hitters were allowed to go out and chase the target down with little pressure on them because their bowlers had done the most of the job. Daryl Mitchell then made things much easier for his team by top-scoring with 49 off 35 balls as they stormed to victory with eight wickets and 33 balls to spare. New Zealand wasn’t under any pressure from the scoreboard. So they can play the bowlers out, which is precisely what they did with Kane Williamson at the crease. In five overs, they were reduced to 30 for 1.
India is now, counting on Afghanistan to defeat New Zealand, and then they’ll have to defeat Afghanistan by a large margin to survive. It’s not impossible, but they can’t do anything about it now.