AUCKLAND: India will look to end what has been a fine tour of New Zealand on a terrific high when the teams clash in the final Twenty20 International in Hamilton on Sunday, 10 February.
The sides are locked 1-1 in the three-match series. India had a poor outing in Wellington, where they were bundled out for 139 chasing 220. They fought back in Auckland after all departments came together in a seven-wicket triumph.
They now have a chance to win a T20I series in New Zealand, having not even had a victory in the format in these parts till Friday.
That said, India’s reaction to defeats have been particularly noteworthy so far this series. When they were bundled out for 92 in an eight-wicket loss in the fourth ODI, they managed to secure a fighting victory in the final ODI in Wellington.
Similarly, after going down in the first T20I, the team came together in the second match, winning quite comfortably in Auckland to level the series.
But what will particularly please the management is how the revival has been led by the players who needed to make their mark – Ambati Rayudu and Vijay Shankar starred in the victory in the final ODI and it was Krunal Pandya and Rishabh Pant, playing just his second match in the series, leading things on Friday.
That’s already a lot of positives from the series, something especially pertinent given India have been experimenting with combinations and personnel ahead of the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2019.
The visitors are unlikely to be satiated with that, though. They will want to bring an end to what has been a fine few months on the road with another series win.
That’s easier said than done, of course. New Zealand have posed more of a threat in the latter part of India’s tour, and have been a force in the shortest format.
Even in defeat in the second T20I, New Zealand had some positives, particularly in the performance of Colin de Grandhomme, who scored a 28-ball 50, and Ross Taylor (42 off 36).
Furthermore, they will be aware India have struggled with the moving ball this series – that collapse for 92 in the fourth ODI came in Hamilton – and the likes of Tim Southee, Scott Kuggeleijn and de Grandhomme will be hoping to once again inflict some pain on the Indian batsmen on Sunday.
They will miss Lockie Ferguson – he makes way for the uncapped Blair Tickner for the final match of the series. Despite that, they will be confident of getting one back against India.
Colin de Grandhomme (New Zealand): The all-rounder displayed his big-hitting abilities in Auckland, rescuing New Zealand from 50/4. With the ball, when there is a little assistance, he can be lethal, as was the case the last time these sides were in Hamilton for the fourth ODI, when he picked 3/26. India will be wary of him.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar (India): The leader of India’s pace attack has been effective so far this series without being brilliant. His economical 1/29 in Auckland built pressure, which other bowlers capitalised on. In swing-friendly conditions in Hamilton, he will likely add wickets to his name.
In short, Hamilton is forecast to have fine conditions to play cricket. The fast bowlers will like bowling here, if the fourth ODI is anything to go by.