Remember Mitchell Santner and Ish Sodhi bundling India out for 79 in the 2016 T20 World Cup? Well, the two spinners once again forced India into submission on Sunday (October 31) and helped New Zealand claim their first win of the 2021 T20 World Cup. Sodhi dismissed Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli, while Santner went wicketless, but the duo conceded only 32 runs in their eight overs and never allowed India to gain any momentum in the middle overs.
Celebrating his 29th birthday, Sodhi couldn’t have asked for a better evening. “Yeah, cool way to spend your birthday. You spend so much time of your season all year away from friends and family. And so I guess to have a day like that and beat a top quality side like India is pretty cool,” said Sodhi, who was named Player of the Match.
Talking about his partner in crime, Santner, Sodhi said: “I think off the pitch we have a great relationship. Very good mates. We've played a lot of cricket together now. But I think on the pitch, the way that he bowled today, four overs through the middle. One of those in the powerplay, to create the pressure that he did and do some false strokes, I think a lot of us bowlers benefit a lot from the pressure that he puts on through that middle period. And that can definitely never go unnoticed.”
The legspinner heaped heavy praise on the entire bowling attack. It was Trent Boult who got rid of dangerous Ishan Kishan early in the innings, while Tim Southee dismissed KL Rahul in the final over of the powerplay. That’s when Sodhi and Santner took over and choked Kohli and Co. in the middle phase. Santner didn’t take a wicket but conceded only 15 runs in his four overs.
“It's very special. I think you can often get caught in that trap of expectations. We played a great game against some in the 2016 World Cup, but when you say 2016 it's five years ago. We change. A lot of players change. Strategies change. I think T20 cricket in general has changed a lot even in that time. But I think looking back at tonight especially, I go back to the amount of pressure that was created by Mitch.
“And also the powerplay bowlers for keeping it really tight. And Trent Boult and Tim Southee, obviously stalwarts in New Zealand cricket. But I thought Adam Milne had a tough over but he came back exceptionally well and finished with some pretty good figures on that wicket. I think as a collective, the team bowling performance was a pretty good one.
"I think adapting to conditions is a big thing we speak about a lot. And I think the thing that we had to judge was the last couple of games that have been played in the Dubai stadium. We were a little unsure what the wicket would play like. I guess bowling first gives you a chance to understand that a little bit better than bowling second. I think you just have to be really conscious of the boundary sizes. Often even in the first innings, you get caught up sometimes if you've got them a few wickets of over-attacking.”
Talking about New Zealand’s bowling plans, Sodhi said: “"Ishan Kishan has obviously been in great form. So we had to think on our feet, which I think the powerplay bowlers did exceptionally well in doing. You have to be able to think on your feet. As a team, we speak a lot about depth to conditions. That's a big thing that we try to pride ourselves on. I think when you're faced with circumstances like that, to be able to respond quickly is a great test of character. And I thought the bowlers did that really well in the powerplay today.
"I think if you bowled to the conditions, it was important. You didn't want to get too full on this side, closest to us, because the boundary on the leg side was so small. And often, even if the conditions are offering something, if there's a little bit of spin or a little bit of bounce or something like that, if you overpitch with the quality of batsmen on the Indian cricket team the amount of time they take spinners down in the IPL, you're asking for trouble. So, it was important to keep your length back on this side of the field.
"Whereas on the other side, the leg side was a lot longer, so you probably had a bit more margin for error with your length. I think it was just being really conscious of that and making sure you bowled to the conditions more so than the batsmen.”
Just like India, New Zealand lost their first game against Pakistan and were under some pressure coming into this encounter. Now, if New Zealand win their remaining three games against Scotland, Namibia and Afghanistan, they will make it to the semifinals.
"You go into matches like this with a team full of world-class performers like India have, and they've got a great record against us over the past few years. Very tough opposition in any conditions anywhere in the world. So it's definitely a special win. After a tough loss against Pakistan I think the boys regrouped really well. And to be able to pull off a win like that, it's definitely something you don't take lightly.
"I think the boys held their composure really well. I suppose it was quite hard not to think it was a big game in this competition for us over the past few days. But I guess it kind of was, but the boys just held their composure really well. The toss went our way. And we've got a tremendous amount of experience in this group."