INDIA EYE ANOTHER SLICE OF HISTORY
THIRD TIE TODAY, MEN IN BLUE LOOK TO CLINCH FIRST-EVER T20 SERIES IN NZ
HAMILTON: In a season of many firsts for India, Rohit Sharma and company will be aiming to become first to win a T20 International series in New Zealand when the two sides clash in the final match here on Sunday.
The past three months have made for a memorable phase for the India team, which won its first Test and bilateral ODI series in Australia followed by the biggest one-day series win in New Zealand.
A first T20 series victory in New Zealand will be the icing on the cake for the ‘Men in Blue’, who have exceeded expectations during their three-month trip to this part of the world.
With the series locked 1-1, there is everything to play for in the decider which promises to be a cracker of a contest on a ‘Super Sunday’ with a spicy Seddon Park pitch in the offing.
India will do well to remember the nightmare they endured during the fourth ODI at this venue where they were shot out for 92 in the wake of some quality swing bowling from Trent Boult.
However, Sunday will be a different day and there can’t be a bigger motivation than winning yet another series in challenging overseas conditions.
“We have played in Hamilton and there won’t be any surprise element as far as the pitch is concerned. Also, having won the second game gives us confidence going into the final match,” leftarm speedster Khaleel Ahmed had said after the series levelling win in the second T20 in Auckland, when asked about the Hamilton game.
“We have rectified some of our mistakes from the first game and hopefully a few which are there will also be corrected,” Khaleel added.
India fielded the same side in the first two games and in all likelihood will maintain continuity unless there are some niggles.
In case the team management gives change a thought, it could be Kuldeep Yadav coming in place of Yuzvendra Chahal as the wrist spinner.
However, a look at India’s T20 elevens will indicate that Chahal has been their preferred shortest format bowler on most occasions.
The bowlers will look to replicate the good show from the last match where they found their rhythm after a pasting in the opener from Tim Seifert.
Krunal Pandya once again punched above his weight with some gritty performances in the two games.
Not considered the most talented player in the set-up, Krunal makes up his with hard work and discipline. His accuracy is one of the biggest positives going into Sunday’s match along with the intelligence of senior seamer Bhuvneshwar Kumar.
Khaleel also stuck to his brief in the last game where skipper Rohit Sharma had instructed him to bowl back of the length to avoid being hit for boundaries. There will be a similar plan in place on Sunday also.
Rohit, the stand-in captain, is now the world’s top run-getter in T20 Internationals. He will like to better the 29-ball-50 of the previous match, which can spell doom for the Black Caps.
With Shikhar Dhawan for company, a good opening stand will be half the battle won for the visitors as it has been the case during the last four years.
The middle order has also shown solidity with the experience of MS Dhoni and the exuberance of Rishabh Pant combining well, as was evident in Auckland.
For New Zealand, a better batting effort in the middle overs is what they would be looking for.
Skipper Kane Williamson has endured a quiet limited-overs series by his standards and senior batsman Ross Taylor has also blown hot and cold during the last three weeks.
Among the New Zealand bowlers, Tim Southee was impressive in the first game but pretty ordinary in the second along with Scott Kuggeleijn, who also went for runs.
A big factor in India’s win in second T20 at Auckland was the impressive show by bowlers, especially Krunal Pandya (second from right) and Khaleel Ahmed (extreme right).