Ruthless India aim to close out series against abject New Zealand
New Zealand have been clueless against Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav. (AFP Image)

Take out a moment and ask yourself. Was this the level of competition you were expecting from an India-New Zealand series? The answer would be a strong no. New Zealand is one side that is capable of really coming hard at the opposition, even when they are touring. Hence, seeing them trail 0-2, at home, and be on the verge of a series defeat is even more baffling.

During the tour of 2014, New Zealand had outclassed India 4-0. Five years later, it’s India who have turned the tables on the hosts. And how? The answer is spin. In both matches, Kuldeep Yadav has bamboozled the batsmen with his left-arm wrist spin. Yuzvendra Chahal hasn’t allowed them any respite either. Heck, even Kedar Jadhav got was awarded a wicket off the first delivery he bowled.

It’s tough to believe that this is the same New Zealand outfit that pummelled over 300 runs in the last two ODIs played at the Bay Oval before Friday. 157 in the first match, followed by 234 in the next, when even that looked tough with New Zealand struggling at 166 for 8. It will be unfair to put all the blame of the batsmen because the bowlers have fared no better.

Trent Boult and Lockie Ferguson combined to leak 142 runs from 20 overs sharing. That said, New Zealand possess a stronger batting unit than what their numbers suggest. Kane Williamson remains key, sure. But Ross Taylor, Colin Munro and Tom Latham? There just is not no excuse for losing early wickets, or for how they lost wickets in a cluster.

India on the other hand cannot put a step wrong. Each batsman got himself a productive outing. Virat Kohli, who will be playing his final match of his over three-month-long tour Down Under, will look to sign off with another series win abroad under his belt. It’s been 10 years since India last won a series in New Zealand, and Kohli has the chance to add one more feather in his captaincy hat, while eyeing a fine contribution from himself.

Date: January 28

Venue: Bay Oval, Mount Maunganui

Time: 07:30 IST

Weather: Partly cloudy with a high of 25 degree

Team News

With his suspension lifted, Hardik Pandya was scheduled to arrive in New Zealand Sunday, which means that he his will be a direct entry into the team, a like-for-like replacement for Vijay Shankar, who couldn’t quite make an impact in the two opportunities provided with the ball. Pandya’s presence lends solidity and balance to the side and Kohli the skipper has time and again acknowledged it. On the cusp of a series win, expect India to stick to the same remaining players from the first two matches.

Probable XI: 1 Rohit Sharma, 2 Shikhar Dhawan, 3 Virat Kohli (capt), 4 Ambati Rayudu, 5 MS Dhoni (wk), 6 Kedar Jadhav, 7 Hardik Pandya, 8 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 9 Kuldeep Yadav, 10 Mohammed Shami, 11 Yuzvendra Chahal

New Zealand

Following back-to-back heavy defeats, New Zealand seem to be in a fix. But it won’t be a bad ploy to bring back Tim Southee and give Colin de Grandhomme rest. Doug Bracewell did not get any wickets on Friday, but he was second-most economical bowler behind legspinner Ish Sodhi. On the batting front, Tom Latham has fared better against spin than any other member of the team, but he remains a restricted resource at No. 6. Having him open and Push Munro down may avoid New Zealand’s jitters at the top.

Playing XI:

Probable XI: Colin Munro, 2 Martin Guptill, 3 Kane Williamson (capt), 4 Ross Taylor, 5 Henry Nicholls, 6 Tom Latham (wk), 7 Ish Sodhi, 8 Colin de Grandhomme/Tim Southee, 9 Doug Bracewell 10 Trent Boult, 11 Lockie Ferguson

Stats

– Prior to the last game, seven ODIs at Bay Oval have produced 3694 runs. The last two ODIs played there before Friday had resulted in over 1300 runs.

– New Zealand have three of seven ODIs at Bay Oval. India have won one.

Quotes

The World Cup is a little bit secondary still; we want to win this series first and foremost. – Gary Stead, New Zealand coach.