Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul… and now Suryakumar Yadav. The list of Indian cricketers with multiple T20I centuries ends there. The single-hottest player in Indian cricket, SKY, took another giant leap towards cementing himself as the greatest T20 batter of the current generation as he went on a rampage against New Zealand. Suryakumar, five months removed from his maiden T20I hundred, peeled off his second ton scoring 111 not out off 55 balls – and outdid his manic self at Trent Bridge against England in June – leading India to a spectacular 65-run win despite a sensational hat-trick from Tim Southee at the Bay Oval on Sunday.
There wasn't much to differentiate this knock from the one Suryakumar played in Nottingham, but where it stands out is the outcome and how things ended for India. In the past, many a great inning has gone unnoticed, mostly buried in history books simply because the batsman could not get his team home. In Mount Maunganui though, Surya grabbed the New Zealand bowling by the scruff of its neck and steamrolled it as India posted 191/6. Not only did SKY take his team home, like a raging bull, he bulldozed his way to T20 madness as India secured a 1-0 lead in the series following the Wellington washout.
And all this, while enjoying a batting promotion. Suryakumar walked out ahead of Shreyas Iyer, and once he scooped his fourth delivery for a boundary, the show went on till the very end. The sight of Ishan Kishan and Rishabh Pant getting the India innings underway was a throwback to 2016, when the two youngsters opened the innings at the Under-19 World Cup, but it concluded being nothing more than a nostalgic act with Pant's scratchy stay ending at 6 off 13 balls.
It came Surya, initially playing second fiddle to Ishan, who looked good for his 31-ball 36. In fact, one of Ishan's bullet drive down the ground for four almost floored Suryakumar at the non-striker's as the two added 39 before the partnership was broken. After Ishan took a successful DRS to reverse an LBW decision against him off the bowling of Ish Sodhi, he miscued a cut to Southee at short third man for the leg-spinner to be awarded for some disciplined bowling inside the Powerplay.
Next man in, Shreyas Iyer looked like beginning his New Zealand tour exactly where he left off in 2020 as he hit and a six and a four but endured an unfortunate dismissal when he went too far back to glide the ball and knocked the bails off with his back heel – a second hit-wicket for India in consecutive matches. At 108/3, India were pretty much motoring along at over 9 an over but it was important to get a partnership going, and Suryakumar, Hardik Pandya provided exactly that. When the fifty-run stand between the two was raised, Pandya's contribution was merely seven as the Surya show had begun to unfurl. He showed first signs of cutting loose against Lockie Ferguson in the 12th over, creaming the New Zealand pacer for two boundaries, but once the final five overs kicked in and India's slightly behind at 119/3, Surya took off.
Ferguson was slapped for 6, 4, and 4, followed by Adam Milne getting carved for two more sixes. If there were any lingering doubts about Suryakumar even remotely not being in the zone, he dismissed those thoughts by inflicting an unreal punishment on Ferguson. It involved four boundaries, a dot and a six. He played the waft through third man, a throw of the bat cut near point and a thumped lofted drive to reach his century. A ramp shot and another aerial drive for six later, India had taken 22 off the over and reached 186. 200 looked very much possible before Southee gave NZ a semblance of hope dismissing Pandya, Deepak Hooda and Washington Sundar to claim his second T20I hat-trick.
New Zealand were rocked in the first over itself as Finn Allen picked out Arshdeep Singh second ball of the innings but their topmost-ranked T20 batsman Devon Conway and captain Kane Williamson kept the innings under control. Arshdeep's first over conceded 10 and Bhuvneshwar third nine and even though Mohammed Siraj piled the pressure with a brilliant first over giving away just three, which meant that New Zealand's score after the Powerplay read pretty much like India's from the World Cup. Spin was introduced, which slowed things down. The 17 run first over from Sundar notwithstanding, he gave India a much-needed breakthrough as Conway holed out in the deep.
From there, Yuzvendra Chahal wrested control. Having been left out of India's Playing XI in all World Cup matches, Chahal showed just what the team missed in Australia. Glenn Phillips nailed a four and a six but the leg-spinner knocked him over, and inflicted a double whammy on New Zealand with Jimmy Neesham's wicket. In between, Hooda had sent back the dangerous Daryl Mitchell to put India on top, and for good measure. At 93/5, New Zealand had gone 32 balls without a boundary, nearly five overs. Williamson broke the boundary drought and played some entertaining strokes to bring up a half-century, 71 needed off 16 was a bridge too far to cross even for a genius like him. A classy 61 from the skipper ended in a very unclassy dismissal, bowled off a slower Siraj full toss. Hooda ran through the lower order, eventually finishing with 4/10 with New Zealand getting bowled out for 126.