Cricket: Sharma, Dhawan gift India first T20 win against Kiwis
A record opening partnership between Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan powered India to a 53-run win over New Zealand in the first Twenty20 international in New Delhi on Wednesday.
The pair put on 158 runs - India's best for any wicket - to take the hosts to 202-3 and then restricted the Kiwis to 149-8 and take lead in the three-match series.
Notching up their maiden win over New Zealand in the format, the Indian team gave a fitting farewell to veteran paceman Ashish Nehra, who called time on his playing career.
Nehra, 38, who retired after an injury-plagued 18-year-old career, went wicketless but was carried by his teammates in a lap of honour at his home ground Feroz Shah Kotla.
It was Dhawan, who hit a career-best 80, and Sharma, who also made 80, stole the show. They surpassed the 136-run opening stand between Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir against England in the 2007 T20 World Cup.
"Very clinical performance from the whole team. The wicket I felt was a bit damp. But the two guys at the top of the order set up the platform for us and were outstanding," skipper Virat Kohli said.
"Dhawan wanted to do well in this format as his record is good in ODIs...This knock is a testimony to the fact of what he can do," Kohli said of Dhawan, who received the man of the match award.
- Sloppy New Zealand -
Indian batsmen also benefited from a sloppy effort by New Zealand fielders with Dhawan, on eight, and Sharma, on 16, surviving dropped chances.
Kohli also got a reprieve on eight before going on to make an unbeaten 11-ball 26.
Leg-spinner Ish Sodhi claimed two wickets in an over including Dhawan's prized scalp but the damage had already been done.
While the left-handed Dhawan smashed 10 fours and 2 sixes in his 52-ball knock, Sharma also entertained the raucous home crowd during his 55-ball stay.
"One (thing) that stands out is the fielding. We were very poor there. I don't think we can use the ground conditions as an excuse," skipper Kane Williamson said.
"We couldn't quite use the spinners the way we would have liked to, which was to control the rate of scoring, but they bowled very well," he added.
In reply, the New Zealand innings could never take off after losing their openers for just 18 runs inside four overs.
Martin Guptill, who scored four, fell to leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal while Colin Munro was bowled for seven by a superb yorker from fast bowler Bhuvneshwar Kumar.
Williamson tried to revive the innings with his 24-ball 28 but Hardik Pandya got him caught behind to spell trouble for the visitors.
Left-arm spinner Axar Patel struck twice in an over to send back Tom Bruce and Colin De Grandhomme as the wheels came off the Kiwi chase.
Tom Latham top-scored with a valiant 39 before becoming Chahal's second victim.
The second T20 is scheduled on Saturday in Rajkot.