Pant's finishing prowess, bowlers' fightback the talking points from India's T20 win in Auckland

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Pant and Dhoni finished off the chase for India at Auckland.

After tasting a crushing defeat in the series opener, India bounced back in style against New Zealand with a comprehensive seven-wicket win in the second T20 at Auckland.

In front of a packed house at Eden Park, the visitors chased down New Zealand’s total of 158-8 with seven balls to spare to restore parity in the three-match series at 1-1.

At the end of what was India’s first T20 win on New Zealand soil, we take a look at the key talking points from the clash.

KRUNAL AND KHALEEL REDEEM THEMSELVES

After conceding 85 runs in eight overs between them in the first T20, there were question marks over Krunal Pandya and Khaleel Ahmed’s spots in the team. In the end, stand-in skipper Rohit Sharma persisted with the duo at Auckland and his faith was repaid manifolds with the two ending up being the chief architects of India’s victory.

Krunal was entrusted to bowl in the powerplay and the left-arm spinner struck twice in the sixth over to send back the dangerous Colin Munro and Daryl Mitchell. In his next over, Pandya landed the big fish in the form of Kane Williamson by trapping the Kiwi skipper plumb in front of the wickets.

While Krunal broke the back of New Zealand’s batting, it was Khaleel who shone at the death with the scalps of Mitchell Santner and Tim Southee. The left-arm pacer was in his elements this time, castling the stumps of both the tail-enders to cap off a fine spell.

Together, the duo only conceded 55 runs from their eight overs, a major improvement on the Wellington showing.

A fine comeback by Krunal and Khaleel.

A fine comeback by Krunal and Khaleel.

MITCHELL DISMISSAL RAISES DRS CONTROVERSY

The second T20 was not without controversy with Krunal’s dismissal of Mitchell raising plenty of eyebrows. Having just dismissed Munro three deliveries earlier, Pandya struck the pads of Mitchell and immediately went up in appeal.

The on-field umpire raised the dreaded finger but Mitchell wasted no time in calling for a DRS review. The Kiwi batsman was confident that he had got an inside-edge before being struck on the pads and Hotspot showed a clear mark on Mitchell’s bat.

However, the other replay using Snicko did no show any spike when the ball passed the bat, leading the third-umpire to go with the on-field decision.

As Williamson stood in disbelief at the other end, an exasperated Mitchell walked up to Rohit to protest the decision but the India skipper chose not to withdraw the appeal. In the end, Mitchell had no option but to make the long walk back to the pavilion with the frailties of the DRS technology once again exposed.

Williamson cannot believe it.

Williamson cannot believe it.

CAPTAIN ROHIT OVERTAKES GUPTILL

Skipper Rohit Sharma ensured India did not lose their way in the pursuit of a modest target. The India opening batsman struck a his 16th T20I half-century, taking only 28 deliveries to get to the mark before his innings was brought to an end by Ish Sodhi.

In the process of getting to his fifty, Rohit overtook Martin Guptill to become the highest run-scorer in T20I cricket. The right-hander now has 2,228 runs from 84 innings to his name compared to Guptill who has 2,272 runs from 10 fewer innings.

By the time Rohit was dismissed, India had already racked up 79 runs in nine overs and it was no surprise then that the visitors coasted to victory with Shikhar Dhawan and Rishabh Pant chipping in with important contributions.

A new T20I milestone for Rohit Sharma.

A new T20I milestone for Rohit Sharma.

PANT AND DHONI FINISH IT OFF IN STYLE

The first T20 had been a disappointing one for most of India’s batsmen including Rishabh Pant who scored just four runs. On Friday, with veteran MS Dhoni watching from the other end, the youngster showed glimpses of his finishing prowess with a fine unbeaten 28-ball 40 to help India cross the finish line.

With India’s openers having set things up nicely, Pant started in explosive fashion with some trademark hits to the fence. While his hitting powers have never been in doubt, the young man also showed that he can keep a calm head when it comes to finishing off a run chase.

Once Vijay Shankar was dismissed and Dhoni walked into bat, Pant showed a much more mature head by milking singles and doubles to keep the runs ticking nicely.

It was almost as if the youngster was trying to prove that he can take over the mantle from Dhoni. With still more than three months to go for the World Cup in England, Pant’s innings will definitely give the Indian selectors something to think about.

Rishabh Pant showed his class with the bat.

Rishabh Pant showed his class with the bat.

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Ben Stokes adds to England's injury woes ahead of final Test against West Indies

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Stokes has added to England's concerns ahead of the St. Lucia Test.

England‘s hopes of averting a 3-0 whitewash in the West Indies were hit when Ben Stokes emerged as a doubt for the third Test against the West Indies, with Ben Foakes and Chris Woakes also managing injuries.

If the worst happened and all three were ruled out of the game in St Lucia, which begins on Saturday, England would have just 12 fit players to choose from.

Stokes was present at training on Thursday, England’s first full session since their three-day defeat in Antigua, but did not take part due to bruising on his right heel.

Foakes, who was hit on the hand by a Shannon Gabriel delivery last week and was unable to keep wicket in the second innings, was involved but has yet to be given the green light by medical staff and Woakes is highly unlikely to make it as he manages a longstanding knee complaint.

England were keen not to make any early assessments, with another full day of preparation work ahead, but Stokes’ ability to balance the side as a top-five batsman and reliable seam bowler makes any question mark overs his participation serious.

He would be considered as a specialist batsman even if he was unavailable to fulfil his duties with the ball, but England will give themselves more time to make a judgement.

Restructuring the side, or just the batting order, remain possible but with Adil Rashid having flown home to be with his pregnant wife options are limited.

Copy provided by Press Association Sports

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Mujeeb ur Rahman not included in Afghanistan squad for sole Test against Ireland

Waseem Ahmed 7/02/2019
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Afghanistan spinner Mujeeb ur Rahman (r).

Mystery spinner Mujeeb ur Rahman failed to find a place in Afghanistan’s Test squad for next month’s clash against Ireland.

Afghanistan are due to host Ireland across all three formats at their adopted ‘home’ ground in Dehradun, India and will play only their second Test since gaining full ICC membership last year.

Mujeeb was the biggest omission from the 14-man squad announced by the Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB) on Thursday while wicketkeeper-batsman Mohammad Shahzad was left out of the T20 side.

While missing out on the Test squad, Mujeeb has been picked for the ODI and T20 matches. Shahzad, meanwhile, has been included in both the Test and ODI squads for the Ireland clashes.

Having captained the side in their maiden Test against India last year, Asghar Afghan continues the lead Afghanistan in all three formats.

Three players – Sharafuddin Ashraf, Ikram Ali and Waqar Salamkheil – have been handed their maiden Test call ups. All-rounder Ashraf has already played 14 ODIs and six T20s for Afghanistan previously and has picked up 12 and five wickets respectively in the two formats.

Ikram had a first-class experience of six matches in which he has managed to register one ton and a half-century. Waqar, meanwhile, has played seven first-class matches so far in his career and has struck four half-centuries.

It will be leg-spin sensation Rashid Khan who will be key in the sole Test against Ireland with Mujeeb missing out. The 20-year-old is currently the No1 ranked T20 bowler in the world while he is ranked second in the ODI format.

Afghanistan and Ireland are due to play three ODIs and five T20s before the start of the sole Test which gets underway on March 15. All of the nine clashes between the two sides will take place at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium in Dehradun starting with the first T20 on February 21.

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