India finally tasted success against the team that has been their Achilles heel for long in this format when they outplayed butter-fingered New Zealand by 53 runs in the first T20I in New Delhi on Wednesday. At the end of the lopsided game that was also veteran seamer Ashish Nehra's last in competitive cricket, hosts India sauntered to a 1-0 lead in the three-match series.
Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma struck scintillating half-centuries during a record partnership to power India. This is Indias biggest partnership for any wicket, eclipsing the previous best of 138 held by Kohli and Sharma, against South Africa in 2015. Invited to bat after the coin landed in New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson's favour, India were off to a brisk start and upped the tempo as overs passed by.
The packed crowd at the Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium was treated to some delightful as well as unorthodox cricketing shots by Dhawan and his opening partner Rohit Sharma. Sharma, who got a reprieve on 16, slammed six sixes and four boundaries in his 55-ball knock. While the left-handed Dhawan, who represents Delhi in the domestic circuit, blazed his way to 80 off only 52 balls, hitting 10 fours and two sixes.
Set a daunting target of 203 in the allotted 20 overs, New Zealand were off to a poor start as they lost Guptill in the second over. It was a stunner from Pandya, who sprinted from long-off into what looked like a no mans land and pulled off the unbelievable catch with a full-length dive and outstretched hands, and a slide that continued for a while even after the ball was in his safe hands.
Ashish Nehra bowled the last over of the New Zealand innings to finish off his 18-year-long international career. "I will miss it all," Nehra said. "My body will be at peace because I have really pushed myself over the years. I played my first game here in 1997 and there have been drastic changes. Indian cricket is in good hands for the next seven, eight years." Nehra returned respectable figures of none for 29 in his four-over spell.