New Zealand’s resilience was there for all too see as the Kiwis made it very clear they are going to give India a run for their money. It’s a series that the players have long waited for, given that the Indians are the current World Champions and have set the benchmark in ODI cricket over the last couple of years, the shortened series represents an ideal opportunity for New Zealand cricket to re-announce itself on the global stage. The BCCI’s reluctance to honour the FTP, resulting in the tour being shortened, may have fuelled a greater sense of aggression in the Kiwis to make the series count.
India, on the other hand, will look to make amends after a sloppy performance with both bat and ball allowed New Zealand to stamp their authority on the match. Napier was as good a batting patch as India could expect in an overseas ODI series, yet Dhoni’s boys bent on justifying the tag of ‘flat-track bullies’ as they succumbed under pressure. The bowlers let Kane Williamson and the in-form Ross Taylor off the hook in the middle overs after a promising start in the first ten, and had no answer to the big hitting of Corey Anderson. The bowling in the death overs, so often India’s achilles heel, cost the men in blue dearly as they leaked a hundred runs in the last ten overs.
Hamilton promises a tricky pitch, but it is the “inconsistency” of the middle order that will worry Indian skipper MS Dhoni. The only inspiration will be the sublime form of Virat Kohli who is increasingly becoming the fulcrum of the Indian batting order. Albeit in a losing cause, Virat’s 123 off just 111 deliveries is a resounding reassurance that he is India’s man for all seasons. It is important to note that out of the 46 times Virat has scored a half-century or more, India finished victorious in 32 matches. The worrying bit in these statistics is that 14 of those 32 victories — which includes nine hundreds from the stylish right-hander– for India have come in the last two years, while the other 18 have come for the first four years since he made his debut in 2008. What stands out is the alarming dependency of the underforming Indian batting line-up on Kohli, and with the world cup a year away, the others too need to lift their game.
The Kiwis will be buoyed by their convincing win on Sunday, and the fact that their key players stood up when it mattered will please captain Brendan McCullum. Mitchell McClenaghan was a nemace all evening and the Indians had no answer to the short ball. After the Napier win, Brendon McCullum and Mitchell McClenaghan, the bowler who did the most damage, have both said they were glad at how the bouncers worked against India – four specialist top-order Indian batsmen fell to the temptation of the pull shot – and that there will be no let-up despite the absence of Adam Milne, who clocked speeds of around 150 kmph in his opening spell.
For the Indian think tank, the form of Ishant Sharmi and R Ashwin remains a worry, but the accuracy of Mohammed Shami and Bhuvneshwar may go some way into solving India’s death bowling problems.
New Zealand (probable): Jesse Ryder, Martin Guptill, Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor, Brendon McCullum (c), Corey Anderson, Luke Ronchi (wk), Nathan McCullum, Tim Southee, Kyle Mills, Mitchell McClenaghan.
India (probable): Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Suresh Raina, MS Dhoni (c & wk), Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Varun Aaron.