India ride on Shubman Gill's 208 to win against NZ despite Bracewell knock | Crickit
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India ride on Shubman Gill's 208 to win against New Zealand despite Bracewell knock

By, Kolkata
Jan 18, 2023 11:44 PM IST

Opener youngest to score ODI double hundred while the Kiwi batter's blazing 140 took the first ODI to final over.

Shubman Gill capitalised on two reprieves to become the youngest to score an ODI double hundred and the fastest Indian to aggregate 1,000 runs on Wednesday as India defeated New Zealand by 12 runs in a humdinger of a series opener in Hyderabad.

Shubman Gill reacts as he celebrates his double-century during the first ODI cricket match between India and New Zealand(PTI)
Shubman Gill reacts as he celebrates his double-century during the first ODI cricket match between India and New Zealand(PTI)

India looked well-placed defending 349 once New Zealand slipped to 131/6 in the 28th over, but Michael Bracewell came out at No 7 to mount an astonishing counter, scoring 140 in 78 balls and getting his team to within two hits of an unexpected win. The left-handed batter hit 12 fours and 10 sixes.

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No cricketer apart from Bracewell has now hit two centuries at No 7, the last one having come at Malahide, Dublin against Ireland last July. This was clearly a braver effort considering the opposition, scenario and conditions. Bracewell seemed completely aloof to all those factors as he took apart India’s bowling ruthlessly, putting on an exhibition of clean hitting rarely witnessed in this format. He pulled, flicked and drove good length balls with such success that India looked all at sea at one point.

With Mitchell Santner scoring a not-so-sedate 57 off 45 balls, the duo added 162 runs for the seventh wicket till home boy Mohammed Siraj took back-to-back wickets to get India back in the game. Siraj, Shami and Hardik Pandya kept alive the intrigue by not letting the game slip away till it came down to Shardul Thakur, who was asked to defend 20 runs in the last over.

First ball, Bracewell clattered him for one of the longest sixes of the day. Thakur then bowled a wide trying to chase Bracewell who was going across his stumps. Next ball, Bracewell again moved across but Thakur bowled full and on target, hitting Bracewell on his shoes to dismiss him leg-before and deliver a thrilling win. On a day that witnessed 24 sixes and two contrasting centuries, it all boiled down to this hit-and-miss from Bracewell as Gill watched anxiously from cover.

India now have had two ODI double hundreds in the space of five weeks, Ishan Kishan the scorer of the previous epic in Bangladesh. Luck played a definitive role for Gill as he was dropped on 45 and 122. Go back a little further and Gill’s selection itself didn’t look possible but for Shreyas Iyer’s injury since Kishan was already designated to keep wicket instead of KL Rahul and open with Rohit Sharma.

“I wasn't thinking about 200 before I hit those sixes in the 46th or 47th over,” said Gill at the presentation ceremony. “That's when I thought I could get a double. I won't call it a "wow" feeling but it feels nice when the ball goes off the bat how you want it. There's certainly a feeling of satisfaction. It has sunk in pretty well. This is certainly one of those things, like what dreams are made of.”

In that sense, Gill’s double hundred wasn’t just a statistical achievement but also a resounding riposte, proving again that he is the best No 2 for India. This double came on the back of a hundred in Thiruvananthapuram in the last ODI against Sri Lanka, a knock that captured his best qualities but still fell somewhat short of being emphatic.

Not anymore. On a stop-start track at Hyderabad where 34 was the next best score in India’s innings, Gill carved a calculated double by picking and milking his zones, relying on a dizzying range of back-foot punches, lofted drives and pull shots. This was Gill as he had always promised but rarely fulfilled, reaching 50 in 52 balls, hundred in 87 balls, 150 in 122 balls and 200 in 145 balls.

There’s more context. Gill single-handedly covered up the early tremors in the innings when Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli and Kishan were dismissed in the space of 45 balls. And then, in the final powerplay, when India didn’t hit a boundary for 27 balls, Gill ended the wait by hammering Blair Tickner for six over his head. Another six, muscled over square-leg, and Gill was adequately warmed up to hit three sixes in a row off Lockie Ferguson next over to reach his double in style.

Nothing Gill did was previously unseen. He can at times look ungainly with that short-arm jab and the pull, but on Wednesday it seemed as if he was checking every shot and yet hitting his stride. The pull was in fact Gill’s most successful shot, accounting for nearly a third of his runs, 64% (133 runs) of which came from on-side shots. Of the 28 boundary hits (19 fours and 9 sixes), 15 came from midwicket and long-on alone.

While New Zealand kept chipping away, removing a promising Suryakumar Yadav before getting Hardik Pandya’s wicket in a dubious bowled dismissal, they found it difficult to dislodge Gill despite knowing his Achilles heel. The hundred was a foregone conclusion. Where Gill exceeded expectations was in being able to be at his troubleshooting best, scoring a deserving double and steering his team to a total that was just enough to pip the Kiwis.

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