Spinners, Harshal and the magic of the slower ball

India have pocketed yet another T20I series at home, this time after winning the second T20I in the three-match series against New Zealand in Ranchi on Friday, November 19, 2021.

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It’s the bowlers who led the team to the finish line after a superlative show in the T20I

The ground was soaked in dew even before the match had begun, and even though the toss would have been a factor with the dew coming on, nature put out one solid challenge to the bowlers from the get go.

After putting New Zealand in to bat, India would have hoped for early success but the Kiwi openers Martin Guptill and Daryl Mitchell had other ideas.

They started with a bang as Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Deepak Chahar were clobbered as New Zealand raced to 42 for no loss in four overs.

With the ball difficult to grip, the pacers had a tough time but once the spinners started operating India started to peg things back a little.

When Ashwin bowled his opening over, the final over in the Powerplay, he gave away 8 runs.

That was the only time he allowed the Kiwi batters any freebies as he kept testing the batsmen, Glen Phillips in particular, with the carrom ball.

The veteran offie joined forces with Axar Patel and the duo kept a lid on the scoring. From overs No 7 to 10 just one four was hit and one wicket was scalped, that of Mark Chapman for 21.

Captain Rohit Sharma realised that the only way to stifle the opposition was with slower bowlers.

Rohit then handed the ball to debutant Harshal Patel who bowled like a pro, showing no nerves, proving that he is one for the long haul.

On seeing that the spinners were making life difficult for New Zealand batters, Harshal decided to stick to the ploy and used the slower one to good effect. He gave just five runs in his opening over before making an impact in his next spell.

With Ashwin and Axar tightening the noose, the pressure was firmly on Mitchell and Phillips to up the ante.

But Harshal was having none of it as it was his main weapon in his arsenal — the slower ball — that gave him his maiden international wicket as Mitchell tried to go big but got beaten for pace and was caught in the deep for 31.

His disguised slower one, this time a legal bouncer, was pounced on by Phillips but he was cramped for room on the pull and was caught at deep square leg for 34.

Bhuvi and Chahar then learnt the trick and bowled slower balls in the death as just 15 came off the last three overs. The Kiwis posted 153 for 6 in their 20 overs.

In the chase, India got off to a bright start but tapered a bit after the 6th over. But with both openers out in the middle, Rohit turned on the screws in the 10th over, hammering spinner Mitchell Santner for 16 runs.

That over opened the floodgates and India eventually romped home for a seven wicket win with 16 balls to spare.

What allowed India to peg the Kiwis back was adopting the slower balls to good effect.

With no pace on the ball, big runs were hard to come by, the pressure falling on the Kiwis. In their attempt to play freely, they played one too many false shots that brought their downfall.

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