With the two teams level at 1-1 in the series, it was the hosts who came out all guns blazing to post a daunting 212-4 in their 20 overs. The visitors battled hard with the bat in response but fell agonisingly short of the finish line in the end.
At the end of an enthralling encounter befitting the status of a decider, we take a look at the key talking points.
MUNRO COMES GOOD IN EXPLOSIVE START
All the pressure was on Colin Munro heading into the third T20 with the Kiwi opener struggling for runs to justify his place in the limited-overs set-up. With his back against the wall, Munro came out in determined fashion and calmly swatted away Bhuvneshwar Kumar for a huge six off the very first delivery.
It was just the pressure-relieving shot Munro needed with the southpaw growing in confidence as his innings progressed. With Tim Seifert for company, Munro helped New Zealand race away to 80 runs inside just eight overs with the small boundaries at Hamilton aiding some big shot-making.
Once Seifert fell for 43, Munro continued his carnage at a venue where he had struck a magnificent ton against England in the same format last year. The opener struck five sixes and as many boundaries before he was dismissed for a 40-ball 72 and by the team he departed, the Kiwi had laid the foundation of a big total.
ROHIT STRUGGLES BUT INDIA COME OUT FIRING
India’s chase of 213 got off to the worst possible start with Shikhar Dhawan falling to Mitchell Santner in the very first over. However, an inspired knock from Vijay Shankar helped India chug along in the chase with the all-rounder smashing 43 off 28 deliveries.
His crisp hitting helped the visitors overcome the struggles of Rohit Sharma at the other end with the stand-in skipper lacking any timing or conviction in his innings. Shankar fell in the eight over but Rishabh Pant kept up the assault with a 12-ball 28 before Hardik Pandya chipped in with an 11-ball 21.
The quick-fire cameos helped India keep up with the asking-rate for a long stretch but wickets kept falling at regular intervals to offset the balance.
Once Rohit’s suffering (38 off 32) was brought to an end by Santner, India lost the plot in the middle with Pandya and MS Dhoni departing in quick succession. It left the lower-order with too much to do in too little time.
KARTHIK AND KRUNAL TAKE IT DOWN TO THE WIRE
The procession of wickets in the middle-overs had brought down the equation for India to an almost improbable one with 68 runs required off the last 28 deliveries.
With just four wickets in hand for India, the hosts would have expected the job to be nearly done but they were given a mighty scare by Dinesh Karthik and Krunal Pandya who turned the tide in spectacular fashion.
The duo smashed five sixes between themselves in the run-up to the final over with the equation coming down to 16 off six in the end. Unfortunately for the visitors, Karthik ran out of steam at the final with Tim Southee bowling an excellent final over for the hosts.
A six from Karthik off the last delivery of the innings proved only to be a consolation in the end as India were left wondering as to what might have been if not for the middle-order stumble.
Test cricket is not dying.
ICC chairman Shashank Manohar stated that the World Test Championship, which begins later this year, has been introduced to stop the format from withering away.
“We are trying to see whether Test championship can generate interest,” Manohar was quoted as saying. “Because Test cricket is actually dying to be honest. To improve the situation, we are trying ways.
“If you look at the TRPs (television ratings), T20 has the maximum TRP. It is because of being the shorter version of the game. Nowadays, people don’t have five days to watch a Test. T20s get over in three-and-a-half hours, like watching a movie.”
There are markets where Test cricket is struggling. But it is not dying. Not in 2018/19.
This season has undoubtedly been one of the finest in contemporary Test cricket. Be it India’s tour of South Africa, the England-India series, England’s tour of Sri Lanka, New Zealand’s series against Pakistan in the UAE, India’s tour of Australia, England’s ongoing tour of the West Indies… there have been numerous clashes with some high quality and engaging cricket with a superb contest between bat and ball.
Tests routinely end in three days and fans can barely afford to miss one session. T20 is the king and five-day matches are yet to get the cash registers ringing, but Test cricket is not dying.
India captain Virat Kohli has taken it upon himself to drive home the point that Test cricket is what really matters. Succeeding in Tests is his mission.
“I would rather speak of a vision, which is for India to be a superpower in Test cricket or a very, very strong side in Test cricket in the years to come,” Kohli had said after leading India to their maiden Test series win in Australia.
West Indies have gained tremendous respect within a few weeks because of the quality of cricket and respect to the graft their players have showcased against a quality England side on challenging wickets in the Caribbean. If Test cricket was truly dead, the land of T20 mercenaries wouldn’t have bothered to succeed in it.
Admittedly, Manohar was talking from a commercial perspective and was being blunt about the financial viability of the format in many territories. Fair enough.
While the Test Championship is a great way to raise interest surrounding matches, recent series have shown that if you have good pitches and balanced sides, the clashes will be so engaging that people will start to talk about it. And hopefully turn up to the ground to witness it or turn on the telly to watch it.
Does it mean Test matches will become the No1 money spinner in a few years if everything goes according to plan? No. Is it becoming increasingly difficult for teams outside the main market to hold Tests or even first-class games? Absolutely.
But Test cricket is not dying. Kohli is obsessed about being the No1 in the format. A T20 specialist like Jasprit Bumrah put his heart and soul into becoming a Test quick and now is one of the most lethal in the game. T20 star Darren Bravo scored the third slowest fifty in Test history in Antigua to help secure a momentous series win over England. Kane Williamson scored one of the finest centuries on a turner against Yasir Shah in Abu Dhabi in December to clinch the series.
Yes, venues are not full. Yes, T20 money will continue to lure the younger generation and also many cricketers away from the labours of red-ball cricket. But looking at the number of batsmen willing to take hits to the body for the team and the number of bowlers bowling their hearts out, the game is on the right path. If the product continues to be this good, it can’t possibly be dead – literally or figuratively.
West Indies are searching for a historic Test whitewash against England after their two emphatic victories at Barbados and Antigua gave them an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three-match series.
It will be Brathwaite who will lead the team out in St. Lucia after talismanic all-rounder and skipper Jason Holder was handed a one-match suspension for his side’s slow over-rate in the second Test at North Sound.
The most experienced player in the Windies unit with 55 Test caps to his name, Brathwaite is desperate to carry the momentum the hosts have generated from their series win into the final Test.
“The aim is consistency, we have won the series so far and we are aiming for a third (victory) and for us as players and as a team we want to win again and show that we have started to move forward. That is one of the main things for us,” Brathwaite said.
“For us, it is to continue to do the things we have been doing well. What happened before in the series is now gone, we are playing well and we want to maintain the standards.
“It looks a good pitch, Saint Lucia is normally a good surface for both batters and bowlers. We always enjoy playing here and we are quite prepared for this match. Winning the series and lifting the Wisden Trophy is great, winning 3-0 would be something special.”
Should the Windies be able to register a win at St. Lucia, it will be their first Test series whitewash over England since 1986 when David Gower’s men were beaten 5-0 in the Caribbean.