Shardul Thakur rises with all-round heroics

The Mumbai pacer delivered with the bat, ball and on the field against New Zealand.

Shardul Thakur picked up two wickets in the final over in the T20I match against New Zealand.Photo: BCCI/Twitter

Shardul Thakur capped another fine performance on the international stage, earning the Man of the Match award for his all-round performance on the field in the fourth T20I against New Zealand at Wellington on Friday that took the match to a Super Over where India sealed the win.

The Mumbai pacer not only picked timely wickets, he led India's tally on the day, but he was also electric in the field to inflict a run out and played another cameo to help steer India to a competitive total.

Put in to bat first, India were reduced to 88/6 in the 12th over, bringing Shardul Thakur to the crease. He went on to stabilise the innings with Manish Pandey as they put on 43 runs for the seventh wicket in just 30 balls.

Of those, Shardul Thakur scored 20 runs in 15 balls, including two boundaries, at a strike rate of 133.33. As a result, India went on to record 165/8 in their 20 overs led by Manish Pandey's unbeaten fifty that was forged with the tail.

New Zealand seemed comfortable in the chase at 96/1 in the 12th over when Shardul Thakur struck from the deep. Fielding deep at cover, he returned a Colin Munro drive to captain Virat Kohli at cover almost immediately, who then found the stumps at the striker's end that left Colin Munro short.

"This is one of the most amazing pieces of relay cricket you will ever see," observed the commentator as Colin Munro, the highest scorer of the match with 64, made his way back to the pavilion.

But the home side recovered, despite losing another wicket in the next over. They went into the last over needed seven runs with seven wickets in hand, with Shardul Thakur given the responsibility to end the innings.

The crunch final over

In the first ball, he dismissed Ross Taylor has he heaved one high towards deep mid-wicket with Shreyas Iyer making the catch. It swung the momentum towards the visitors but was taken back when the next delivery was sent towards the boundary by Tim Seifert.

"There was a lot of pressure," he said. "I was trying to get a wicket on the first ball. Mostly, a batsman tries to go for a four or six on the first ball to try and finish the match as early as possible. My idea was that I will give a slow ball to make them go for a big hit. The plan worked."

The next ball was a slower delivery, which Daryl Mitchell missed as he tried to pull. He ran, regardless, for a bye only for Tim Seifert be run out by KL Rahul at the striker's end.

"When I was hit for a four on the second ball, then the pressure increased. But in crunch situations, you can get hit for a six or a four, so I did not lose hope. We saw how (Mohammed) Shami bhai was hit for a six on the first ball, but then he defended 3 runs in 5 balls (in the last match). So why can't the same happen here? It can happen again."

Mitchell Santner got off the strike immediately when he got to the crease, which meant it was Daryl Mitchell who fell next to a Shardul Thakur knuckleball, caught on the off side by Shivam Dube.

Two were needed off the final ball. The delivery was steered deep towards point, enough for a single, but the New Zealand batsmen pushed for a non-existent second run with Mitchell Santner run out as a result. Shardul Thakur ended with figures of 2/33 in his four overs.

The match ended in a tie and went into a Super Over, which India chased successfully, taking a 4-0 lead in the T20I series.

"I'm feeling good, we play for such nail-biting finishes, we couldn't have asked for anything more in these two games," said Shardul Thakur, an Eagle Thane Strikers pick in the T20 Mumbai league. "After the last game, we learnt that we should never lose hope. The wicket on the first ball of the last over was crucial because it made them nervous. Good contribution from me with the bat, I should have carried on and hopefully, I'll get more next time."

The fifth and final match of the T20I series between New Zealand and India will be played at Mount Maunganui on Sunday.

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