For a series determined by the last two balls, celebrations and mourning were an anti-climatic afterthought. Dinesh Karthik and Krunal Pandya, on whom was tasked the mission to steer India home in the final over by scoring required 16 runs, didn’t plunge ruefully onto the ground. Tim Southee, who executed a perfect last over until the irrelevant last ball, forced a smile. Neither Kane Williamson nor his charges scampered frantically for the souvenir stumps.
It was as though the curtains were pulled down on a purely academic series. The Kiwis obviously could be ecstatic of the brand of electrifying cricket they played, but the Indians could soak in the conclusion of their most rewarding trip to the Southern Hemisphere. Incidentally, the trip ended as it began, with a T20I defeat by an identical margin of four runs, but when Ravi Shastri and his men sit down and take stock of the last three months, the T20 defeats would hardly be dissected or pined over.
It’s what transpired in between that would remain immortal, the still-radiating glaze of India’s first-ever Test and ODI bilateral series wins in Australia, followed by a 4-1 thumping of New Zealand in the one-dayers. Fair enough to suggest that all that mattered this summer was the Test series and once it concluded, the narrative thread shifted to the World Cup, given the immediacy of it, and understandably it remained relevant throughout the T20s as well. A reason this defeat would neither hurt nor harangue India.