March 28, 2023

After a washout in Wellington, the three-match T20I series between New Zealand and India has been reduced to a two-match affair. But apart from that, and a change of venue to Mount Maunganui, little else has changed. In fact, there is a forecast of rain for the second T20I too.

India, for the foreseeable future, will be trying to find batters who are naturally suited for T20 cricket, instead of asking some to bat against their natural style. This series will also be another audition for captain Hardik Pandya, who is being talked about as a potential future leader in the shortest format. However, they now have one game fewer for all this.
It’s difficult to gauge whether New Zealand are better or worse placed when it comes to power-hitting. They have got Finn Allen at the top and Glenn Phillips in the middle order but both Devon Conway and Kane Williamson bat in the anchor mode. What the hosts would want from this series is for Williamson to find fluency, and for Allen to find consistency.
The Bay Oval is sold out for Sunday’s game. Once upon a time, it used to be a reasonably big ground but not anymore. As local boy Ish Sodhi put it, “If I can clear the rope batting at No. 8 or 9, I don’t think the top six will have any issues doing that.” So expect a high-scoring game, provided the rain stays away.

New Zealand LWLWW (last five completed T20Is, most recent first)

Kane Williamson hasn’t had a great time in T20 cricket in the last one year or so. After a poor IPL, where he scored 216 runs at a strike rate of 93.50, his struggles continued at the T20 World Cup as well. While he did score 178 runs in five innings at the global event, his strike rate of 116.33 was once again below par. Experts such as Tom Moody and Stephen Fleming believe Williamson is still valuable to the side, but the reality is he needs to improve his strike rate.
India are still trying to figure out how to get the best out of Rishabh Pant in this format. For someone who looks tailor-made for T20 cricket, not being able to nail a spot in the playing XI is perplexing. In the middle order, he is expected to attack straightaway but a first-ten-balls strike rate of 112.94 paints a very different picture. This year, he also opened in three games. Is that the role India now want to try him in?

From New Zealand’s squad of 13, Michael Bracewell and Blair Tickner could be the ones sitting out.

New Zealand (probable): 1 Finn Allen, 2 Devon Conway (wk), 3 Kane Williamson (capt), 4 Glenn Phillips, 5 Daryl Mitchell, 6 James Neesham, 7 Mitchell Santner, 8 Tim Southee, 9 Ish Sodhi, 10 Adam Milne, 11 Lockie Ferguson

If Pant doesn’t open and continues to bat in the middle order, Shreyas Iyer, Sanju Samson and Deepak Hooda will be left fighting for one slot. One of Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav is likely to sit out as well.

India (probable): 1 Ishan Kishan, 2 Shubman Gill, 3 Shreyas Iyer/Deepak Hooda, 4 Suryakumar Yadav, 5 Rishabh Pant (wk), 6 Hardik Pandya (capt), 7 Washington Sundar, 8 Harshal Patel, 9 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 10 Arshdeep Singh, 11 Yuzvendra Chahal

The average first-innings total in seven completed T20Is at the Bay Oval is 199. The spinners have fared better in terms of economy rate, conceding 8.05 per over as compared to 9.65 for fast bowlers. The previous T20I here, almost two years ago, was washed out, and the weather could play spoilsport once again.

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