Tail-ender Navdeep Saini delighted in a near match-winning cameo, but was unable to prevent India from falling to a 22-run defeat to New Zealand in Saturday's second ODI at Eden Park in Auckland.
Pursuing a 274-run target, India slipped to 251 all out. The result gave New Zealand an unassailable lead in the three-match series.
Saini struck an ODI career-best 45 – and shared a half-century partnership with all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja. The duo kept India in contention, after New Zealand had taken the first seven wickets for 153 runs. Saini was eventually bowled by debutant and Player of the Match Kyle Jamieson.
What Saini said
“Yes, we felt the wicket was flat and if we can stay till the end, the match could go close. Raghu (India's throwdown specialist) helps me with batting and is always encouraging me to do well. Even in the hotel, he keeps telling me that I bat well and should do better. He keeps motivating me and always talks about my batting,” said Saini.
“When I went out to bat, we needed a lot of runs. Our plan was to take the match deep and then we will see at the end, maybe there would be a chance to win. We are playing to win only, so we wanted to take the game deep.
“When batting with Jadeja, he told me that if you get a boundary ball, hit it. Otherwise take singles or doubles, try to keep patience and we can take the game to the end. When I was hitting, the ball was coming well off the bat and he was telling me to keep doing that. And that's how slowly we took the game forward,” he explained about what the thought process was in the middle.
“As soon as I hit the first boundary, I was in shock, ‘wow the ball is coming really well off the bat'. Yes I will regret it when I go back and see the video. If I hadn't got out, maybe the result could have been different. Will regret that I took it so close and maybe could have gotten closer.”
The talented Saini will represent the Royal Challengers Bangalore in the Indian Premier League next month – and continue to vie for a berth in India's squad for the T20 World Cup in Australia later this year.