Bracewell's 140 gives India mighty scare after Gill smashes 208

19 January, 2023
Bracewell's 140 gives India mighty scare after Gill smashes 208
India 349 for 8 (Gill 208, Mitchell 2-30, Shipley 2-74) beat New Zealand 337 (Bracewell 140, Santner 57, Siraj 4-46, Kuldeep 2-43, Thakur 2-54) by 12 runs

As they waited for the final DRS review of the match - a mere formality - Shubman Gill and Michael Bracewell shook hands and congratulated each other. They had batted superbly to set up a modern classic. Gill became the youngest double-centurion in ODIs before Bracewell made a game out of a chase of 350 from 130 for 6 with a sensational 140 off 78 balls. Eventually New Zealand were within two sixes - Bracewell had hit 10 already - of levelling scores when they lost their last wicket with four balls to go.

Gill's place in India's ODI side was questioned because the batter who replaced him when he was resting scored a double-hundred, and he responded one of his own after making 70, 21 and 116 in his first three innings since his return. This wasn't the easiest of tracks for batting: the next-best score was Rohit Sharma's 34, and India's 349 for 8 was the lowest score in any ODI innings to feature a double-century.

The conditions turned in the second half of the match as they do, but by then Mohammed Siraj and Kuldeep Yadav had helped India take six wickets, which proved to be the difference even when Bracewell and Mitchell Santner added 162 for the seventh wicket in just 17 overs. Towards the end the asking rate was within reach but Bracewell ran out of partners.

When play started, with India once again taking on the challenge of scoring a total they can defend under lights, hard lengths bowled straight were difficult to hit, and the odd ball turned for Santner and Bracewell. New Zealand kept picking up wickets regularly, but Gill kept taking the heat off, scoring 19 off 8, 17 off 12, 12 off 8 and 18 off 10 immediately after the first four dismissals. New Zealand conceded just 93 runs in 13 overs from the 35th to the 47th, but then Gill launched his biggest assault, scoring 39 off his last 12 balls.

Rohit and Gill got India off to a quick start, but once Santner started to string together tight overs, wickets began to fall. Rohit felt the need to take the bowling on, and skied an intended hit down the ground. Soon, the first ball that turned in the match went past Virat Kohli's bat to hit the top of off. Santner had brought New Zealand back into the match.

Gill, though, looked sublime. His back-foot punch, his extra-cover drive and his dismissive pulls were all on display. In a welcome departure from the way India play in such situations, Gill tried to take spin down immediately. His first attempt resulted in an outside edge off a non-turning Bracewell offbreak, but Tom Latham dropped the catch. Gill didn't back down. In the same over, he slog-swept a six to get to 52 off 52.

Lockie Ferguson came back to get Ishan Kishan out, following which Gill and Suryakumar Yadav looked threatening in a 65-run stand in 53 balls. A timely breakthrough boosted New Zealand when Suryakumar chipped Daryl Mitchell straight to cover.

Gill went to his hundred with a six and a single in the 30th over, moments after Suryakumar's dismissal. Four down, India couldn't quite capitalise in the overs just before the final powerplay. Losing Hardik Pandya in the 40th over to a debatable call pushed their final kick further into the innings.

When it did arrive, the final kick was awesome. With three overs remaining, Gill stopped waiting for hittable balls. He just looked to hit everything out of the ground. Blair Tickner was taken for two sixes in the 48th, and a hat-trick of sixes off Ferguson in the 49th brought up the double. By the time Glenn Phillips produced a special catch to get rid of Gill, he had hit 19 fours and nine sixes.

Hoping for either the ball to skid on under lights or for dew or both, New Zealand had to instead face Siraj and Mohammed Shami in red-hot form. Siraj has been focusing on his outswingers with the new ball, but the usually brief window of swing was briefer in this match. So Siraj went wobble-seam in his third over. After beating Devon Conway once with the seam movement, he tested Conway on the hook. The sharp bouncer took the top edge to fine leg to give Siraj his first international wicket on his home ground.

Shami doesn't have to try these wobble-seam tricks as his seam is always upright. Between them, the two quicks made life difficult for the New Zealand top three, bowling, at one point, 23 balls without a run. An injury to Shami's left hand brought them relief as Finn Allen pulled Pandya for three fours and a six in the 11th over.

Shardul Thakur and Kuldeep, though, dragged New Zealand right back. Thakur first bounced Allen when he charged him to have him caught at deep midwicket. Not reading Kuldeep out of his hand, the batters were sitting ducks. Henry Nicholls was bowled off a wrong'un, and Daryl Mitchell went back to a quick but full stock ball. Between them Kuldeep and Thakur bowled 11 straight overs for 42 and three wickets.

Sensing an opportunity, Rohit went back to Shami and Siraj, who responded with the wickets of Glenn Phillips and Tom Latham. Bracewell and Santer came together with New Zealand needing 10.5 an over across 21 overs. Bracewell started the counterattack with some sublime hitting of his own. The ball was now coming onto the bat, but it should not take away from the quality of the hitting: every time he tried a big hit, he nailed it right out of the middle.

Pretty soon, India were under the pressure they wanted, of defending under lights. Bracewell hit a boundary every 3.5 balls, taking down every bowler. India began to slip up. When they tried wide lines, they bowled wides. When they tried hard lengths, the ball skidded on for Bracewell to hit down the ground.

Once Santner started to go big too, India were all hands on deck. Siraj, Shami and Pandya were left with the task of holding New Zealand back with 103 required off 10 overs. Siraj bowled the 42nd without a boundary, but Bracewell and Santner took Shami down in the next over. Pandya made a comeback with a mix of lengths and pace to bowl the 45th without a boundary. Bowling his last over then, Siraj got two wickets: Santner on the hook, and Henry Shipley bowled.

Now wickets came into play too. Bracewell, though, found another wind, hitting Pandya for two sixes in the 47th, and Shami for a six and a four in the 48th. With 24 required off the last two, Rohit backed Pandya to bowl the 49th. Pandya didn't disappoint. He got Ferguson with a slower ball, and conceded just four runs.

Bracewell still thought in terms of four good connections, the first of which came off a length ball, first ball of the last over. Eventually, though, a Thakur yorker trapped Bracewell, who was looking to shuffle across and ramp it fine.
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