Agency Auckland: Mahendra Singh Dhoni watched from the 22 yards distance as his heir apparent Rishabh Pant showed spunk in a tricky situation, guiding India to a comfortable seven-wicket victory against New Zealand in the second T20 International here Friday. The chase was set up by skipper Rohit Sharma (50 off 29 balls) in company of Shikhar Dhawan (30, 31 balls) with a 79-run stand after Krunal Pandya got three wickets to restrict the hosts to 158/8. With whirlwind fifty, Rohit also became the top run-getter in the format, surpassing Martin Guptill. Dhoni, the original master finisher couldn’t have been happier as he saw Pant control what could have been a tricky 159-run chase chase with an unbeaten 40 off 28 balls. The series is now tied 1-1 with the decider in Hamilton on Sunday. With the former India captain (20 no off 17 balls) playing the role of a mentor at the other end, the 44-run stand was very significant as Indian cricket slowly moves towards a change of guard in coming days. Pant’s one-handed six off Tim Southee or the bowler’s back drive off Scott Kuggeleijn to finish off the match were reminiscent of Dhoni’s best days. He hit four boundaries and a six in all. The flicked six off Kuggeleijn over backward square leg was treat for the eyes but their dismissal along with Vijay Shankar’s did create a bit of unrest but Pant ensured that they didn’t press the panic button. The innings would certainly help him make a strong case for being included in the World Cup squad.
Earlier, Krunal enhanced his already growing reputation as a steady short format bowler with three important breakthroughs as India restricted New Zealand to a below-par 158/8. The parsimonious Krunal (3/28 in 4 overs) dismissed Colin Munro (12) and skipper Kane Williamson (20) to peg the Black Caps back early in the innings. In between, Krunal also got the controversial wicket of Daryl Mitchell (1), who fell pray to an umpiring howler, when ‘Hotspot’ showed a clear inside edge onto the pads.
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