Having not played a Super Over until Wednesday, and then clawing their way back in to chase 17 and 14 in back-to-back Super Overs in the third and fourth T20Is against New Zealand, was an “unbelievable” experience, according to India captain Virat Kohli.
“There’s something new I’ve learnt in the last couple of games, which is: when the opposition is playing that well, you’ve just got to stay calm in the game, observe what’s happening and if an opportunity comes your way, you capitalise on it and try and make the most of it,” Kohli told the host broadcaster after the match. “What happened in the last two games is unbelievable, being involved in the game and from the fans’ point of view as well.
“You couldn’t have asked for more two exciting T20s back-two-back. We had never played Super Overs before these two games and now we’ve played two back to back. It feels good when you’re out of the game, and then you come back… it shows the character of the team.”
Kohli didn’t have a great time with the bat in the regular game, making only 11, but sealed the Super Over by hitting the winning runs with a pull for four off Tim Southee. However, he revealed, he wasn’t even planning to go out alongside KL Rahul.
“Initially we decided Sanju [Samson] and KL [would open in the Super Over] because both of them can strike the ball really well,” Kohli said. “But then KL and I had a chat [and decided] that I should walk in with him because I have more experience and if there is a pressure situation, I will find more options to figure out what needs to be done.
“His two strikes [a six and a four in the first two balls] were crucial, and then the bit of experience did come into play where you knock the ball into the gaps and make the team go past the line and do the job. It’s exciting for me, having not been part of Super Over for a long, long time, but yeah, two back-to-back exciting wins for us.”
The two unlikely victories, according to Friday’s star performer Shardul Thakur, was a lesson in perseverance, the first win in particular sending out a never-say-die message in the dressing room.
“That’s all we play for – such nail-biting finishes and two games in a row… I think you couldn’t ask for anything more,” Thakur said of the last over of the main game, when he picked up two wickets and two New Zealand batsmen were run-out, resulting in the tie. “After the last game’s win, we learnt that you should never lose hope, and I think the first-ball wicket was crucial. If I bowl a dot ball or take a wicket, then the pressure is on them. And, that’s what happened, and that changed the game a bit.”
ALSO READ: New Zealand’s Super Over heartbreaks
Southee, who delivered both Super Overs and captained New Zealand in the absence of the injured Kane Williamson on the day, summed up the dejection among the home side. “It’s very tough, especially in the positions we put ourselves into,” he said. “We gave them a chance and they took them with both hands. I guess when you’ve got a young bowling attack, and you sort of trying to get a clear decision from a number of people, yeah it’s tough we keep getting ourselves in these positions.
“It is [difficult] when you lose a couple of games like we have. When you’re winning games, you just find ways to win them with balls to spare, but when you haven’t won and you’re playing against quality opposition against India, you give them a sniff in, then you do you make it tough for yourselves.”
Having taken an unassailable 3-0 lead in the five-match series, Kohli’s decision to bring in Samson, Washington Sundar and Navdeep Saini in the fourth T20I didn’t quite return intended results. An impetuous hoick brought Samson’s five-ball 8 to a close two balls after he whipped Scott Kuggeleijn for a wristy six, Washington gave away 24 in two overs, and Saini conceded 29 runs in four overs without putting himself on the wickets column. Kohli, though, took heart from the fact that the trio, especially Saini, were “in the right kind of headspaces” in the face of pressure.
“Sanju was fearless at the top of the order,” Kohli said. “We didn’t quite read the pitch that well; having got one six I think he thought this is his chance to get the momentum going and really take things away. That’s the kind of player he is, so he should keeping backing himself.
“Washy has played a lot anyway. Saini was particularly impressive with his pace he really rushed the batsman. I think all in all, all of them looked in a good headspace. If the opposition plays that well against them, against them, there’s no harm in saying, ‘You guys were playing well in that situation’. But we were very proud with the way we went about it and pulled it back, and those three guys looked to be in the right kind of headspaces.”