New Zealand 167 for 5 (McCullum 91, Irfan 3-31) beat India 166 for 4 (Kohli 70, Mills 2-17, Franklin 2-26) by one run
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
A solitary Twenty20 it was, but it featured multiple narratives, an emotional return for Yuvraj Singh and his fans, an anti-climax for India and an incredible comeback from New Zealand. After Brendon McCullum had punched a furious 91, Virat Kohli counter-punched with a majestic 70, leaving India with 49 to get off 42 deliveries with seven wickets remaining.
That is when the Chennai pitch started to behave more like a typical Chennai pitch; the ball had come on nicely till then. MS Dhoni and Yuvraj struggled to get the ball off the square, James Franklin and Jacob Oram took all pace off the ball to make it harder, and the asking-rate surged suddenly. Dhoni, having promoted himself ahead of Manoj Tiwary and Rohit Sharma, ended unbeaten on a perplexing 22 off 23 deliveries, failing to find any timing on his swipes and slogs and reduced to nudging singles on the leg side.
With 20 needed off the last eight deliveries, Yuvraj managed to heave Oram over deep midwicket for six. With 12 needed off the last five, Dhoni managed to pull Franklin to deep square leg for four. With six needed off three, Yuvraj heaved and was bowled for 34 off 26.
There was still time for one final narrative. Enter Rohit, under pressure for his lack of form, with six still needed. He tried gamely, swinging both the remaining deliveries for a couple of runs each, but India had to pay for tapering off after Kohli's dismissal in the 14th over.
India's defeat was the last thing on the Chennai crowd's mind when Kohli, opening in place of the injured Virender Sehwag, was raining boundaries on New Zealand during his 15th fifty-plus international score this year. Wide deliveries were swatted away with disdain, length deliveries were willed into gaps with confident pushes, spinners were lofted inside-out over extra cover, fast bowlers were charged at and hammered down the ground.
Kohli's assault and his 60-run second-wicket stand with Suresh Raina allowed Yuvraj to ease into his comeback knock. The crowd erupted when Yuvraj thick-edged Adam Milne past slip for his first boundary and swung Daniel Vettori over deep midwicket for his first six. In between, he was let-off when McCullum and Kyle Mills collided trying to take a top-edged pull off Milne.
It was Franklin who began the turnaround when he had Kohli lofting his second delivery to wide long-off. New Zealand also had McCullum to thank, for lifting them from 2 for 2 with a calculated 91 that highlighted his importance to his side, especially in Twenty20s. McCullum had support from Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor, but he was almost single-handedly responsible for New Zealand reaching a competitive score with a knock that began watchfully, and then exploded into a frenzy of powerful hits over extra cover, down the ground and over midwicket.
McCullum often begins a Test innings with a charge down the track and it was probably the two early wickets that made him play with some caution initially. Rob Nicol and Martin Guptill came out swinging but were bowled by incoming deliveries from Zaheer Khan and Irfan Pathan.
McCullum broke free in the fifth over, flicking and cutting Zaheer for boundaries. L Balaji, making his T20I debut and playing his first game for India since February 2009, was inside-edged past short fine leg and sliced over point for boundaries in the next over.
Williamson, a calm man under pressure usually, ensured he gave the strike to McCullum, who was now in control enough to ward off his usual self-destructing tendencies.
Sweeps, reverse-sweeps and scoops were kept away. The one time he tried a reverse-sweep, on 38, he got away with a close lbw shout against R Ashwin, with the umpire ruling there was an inside edge when replays indicated there wasn't any. McCullum's one good innings during the Test series against India was ended when the umpire did not spot an inside edge. It was his turn to benefit today.
McCullum went after Ashwin, lofting him over extra cover for boundaries and down the ground for sixes. Ashwin, the lone spinner playing ahead of the recalled Harbhajan Singh, went for 34 in three overs.
McCullum was only nine short of what would have been his second T20I hundred when he was eventually bowled after missing a sweep off a slow cutter from Irfan in the 17th over. Taylor and Oram were around to take New Zealand to a respectable score.
India rode on Kohli's brilliance in the chase, bottled up for a while after he fell, and when they tried to catch up, it was too late.