Senior New Zealand pacer Tim Southee praised India's in-form batter Suryakumar Yadav for shining in the visitors' 65-run win in the second T20I at Bay Oval, calling his unbeaten 111 an 'exceptional innings' which eventually made a difference to the first innings total.
On a sluggish pitch where almost all Indian batters found it tough to time the ball, Suryakumar, the top-ranked T20I batter, hit 11 fours and seven sixes all over the park at a strike-rate of 217.65 to be unbeaten on 111 off 51 balls, his second T20I century and took India to 191/6 in 20 overs.
From being 57 off 35 balls at the end of the 16th over, Suryakumar smacked 54 runs off his last 16 balls to propel India to a challenging score. Eventually, the bowlers came to the party to bowl out New Zealand for 126 all out in 18.5 overs.
"Anytime a player gets a hundred in a T20 match, it's quite often the difference. You look at the rest of the side, and how the others battled, his innings was a class apart. He got them to a score which was more than what we had hoped for. But it was an exceptional innings and was the difference between restricting India to 175-180 and them getting above 190," said Southee in the post-match press conference.
Further talking about Suryakumar's knock, where he reached the three-figure mark in 49 balls, Southee remarked, "He's a player who can hit you in a number of areas. So, he's had a great 12-18 months in IPL and international cricket. He put up a pretty impressive knock today. The guys have now got 48 hours to re-assess and come up with something for Napier."
In a forgettable day for New Zealand, Southee brought some cheer by picking his second T20I hat-trick, taking out Hardik Pandya, Deepak Hooda and Washington Sundar on consecutive deliveries to achieve the landmark in the final over of India's innings.
"I guess got a bit lucky there with bowling the last over and couple of those found the fielders. Feels really well as sometimes you bowl well and not get the rewards, and then there are times like today where you bowl and get couple of them at the end. On another day, that would go over the fence for six. Makes the day a bit better," he added.
New Zealand's bowlers didn't have a great outing as a collective, with Suryakumar taking boundaries off every bowler, including Southee. But the senior right-arm fast-bowler refused to delve deep into the indifferent bowling performance from the Blackcaps.
"I think that's T20 cricket. You can feel that you are bowling quite well. I think actually we bowled the way we could despite a few wides. But we did beat the bat a few times, like in Sky's first four balls, we made him play and miss three times."
"On another day, you get a couple of early wickets and then things are different. But when you are playing as a bowling attack, you will try to take wickets and if you can't, then try to restrict them to any many as you can."
The New Zealand batters were never in sight of chasing a tall total, falling in quick succession and captain Kane Williamson struggling badly before falling for 61. "They didn't really get going. Anytime it sort of looked like that they would get going, we lost a wicket. Credit to the way India bowled."
"They put up a decent score on the board. But we weren't able to take the early wickets, and that made the score even bigger. Just not been able to get going and when you are chasing a score like that, you need a decent partnership at some stage," concluded Southee.