India had lost five of their six Twenty20 Internationals, with one washed out, against New Zealand until the first game of the ongoing series in New Delhi on Wednesday. When they face off in the second of three matches at the Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium in Rajkot on Saturday (November 4), India will back their chances of making it 2-5.
In the previous match, which will be remembered as Ashish Nehra’s last international outing, India asserted their dominance with a resounding 53-run victory. Nehra’s will be missed for his skill and experience, but depth in India’s quick bowling reserves ensures that the area is sufficiently covered.
For New Zealand, a side that prides itself on its athleticism, one major area of focus will be its fielding, after three dropped chances cost them dearly in the series opener, with Kane Williamson saying that the dew was no excuse.
The dew, which caused difficulties for the New Zealand fieldsmen and bowlers in New Delhi is likely to make an appearance even on Friday, and the pitch in Rajkot, which has traditionally favoured batsmen, can be expected to play out along similar lines for the second T20I.
India: Virat Kohli (capt), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma (vice-capt), KL Rahul, Manish Pandey, Shreyas Iyer, Dinesh Karthik, MS Dhoni (wk), Hardik Pandya, Axar Patel, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj.
New Zealand: Kane Williamson (capt), Mitchell Santner, Ish Sodhi, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor, Trent Boult, Tom Bruce, Colin de Grandhomme, Martin Guptill, Matt Henry, Tom Latham (wk), Henry Nicholls, Adam Milne, Colin Munro, Glenn Phillips.
India’s confidence will be buoyed by the fact that Yuzvendra Chahal and Axar Patel, the spinners, displayed exemplary control in the first T20I and at least Axar, now on home territory, was confident of doing even better come Saturday. “It’s my home ground so I know what to expect from the wicket,” said the left-arm spinner. “I’m looking to bowl the way I did in the IPL because you don’t get much turn, it’s skiddy and there’s not much bounce.”
Not only the spinners, but India’s fast bowlers did a fair job as well. Nehra was rather economical, conceding just 29 runs in four overs although without a wicket. Bhuvneshwar Kumar continued his good form, while Jasprit Bumrah was a tad expensive. With Nehra out of the picture now, it will be interesting to see if India hand Mohammed Siraj, the Hyderabad quick who impressed during the last IPL season, a debut or add another batsman.
Such was India’s dominance in New Delhi that Shreyas Iyer, who was handed his India cap, didn’t even get a chance with the bat. It will be interesting to see how the agressive Mumbai batsman fares should the opportunity arise in Rajkot.
Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan cashed in on dropped chances to stitch a record 153-run opening stand, with both openers scoring 80, Dhawan slightly quicker than Rohit. Virat Kohli also cashed in on an early reprieve to tonk 26 not out from 11 balls to pile the misery on New Zealand and put up 202 for 3, far too many on the night for the visitors.
Where India look a well-settled lot, New Zealand have several key questions to answer. Colin Munro, who scored 75 in the final One-Day International after two average outings in the series, which India won 2-1, fell for seven in the first T20I, while Colin de Grandhomme, who also had only one good innings in the ODIs, was out for a golden duck. Their bowling has also been off the boil, and India might target them in both the innings.
One of them might have to make way for one of Ross Taylor or Glenn Phillips. Taylor, once known for his ability to clear the deep midwicket fence at will, was dropped from the side after the World T20 last year after a sustained lean patch. Called back for this series, he might have to take up the enforcer’s mantle if New Zealand are to save the series.
New Zealand’s spinners were the only ones that looked in complete command of the demands in the first game. Ish Sodhi, the legspinner, took 2 for 25 in four overs. Mitchell Santner was also economical with his left-arm spin and later smashed a 14-ball 27 not out. The onus will be on New Zealand’s quicks and fielders to back them up.
New Zealand had gone 1-0 up in the ODI series before India bounced back remarkably. This time New Zealand have their backs to the wall, and they will look to take a leaf from the home side’s book.