The third T20I between New Zealand and India could give hints of what is to come as it will be their last game of the format this year, hoping to head into 2023 with more answers than questions.
The hosts’ inability to gain absolutely any momentum chasing 192
on Sunday further highlighted their lack of assertiveness in the powerplay. In their last five T20Is, they have scored 40 or less four times in the first six overs, and have hit only two sixes – both from Finn Allen
– despite losing more than two wickets only once.
In the bowling department, Trent Boult
is no more a certain starter; and even when he did play in four of New Zealand’s last five games, they went wicketless in the powerplay thrice. Tim Southee
, stand-in captain for Napier
, is just days short of turning 34, with the next T20 World Cup one-and-a-half years away. It is probably the best time to look ahead for New Zealand if things don’t start going their way soon.
India too needed a fresh approach with their batting
after the semi-final exit from the World Cup, but that is exactly what they couldn’t achieve in the second T20I against New Zealand. Hopes were pinned on the opening pair of Rishabh Pant
and Ishan Kishan
to get them off to a flier, but Pant struggled to 6 off 13 balls while Kishan took 31 deliveries for 36 runs, despite 26 of those coming in boundaries.
India came into this series happy to experiment with their batting, rejigging their line-up to accommodate those on the fringes. But as has been the story in the recent past, only Suryakumar Yadav really fit into the cloth of T20s
with a blazing century.
This was a series with no pressure akin to that of a World Cup and with most batters without any baggage, and India will hope the young faces can help lighten at least some of the luggage from the management’s shoulders. After all, who knows what the incoming selectors might have in mind?
New Zealand LLWLW (Last five completed matches; most recent first)
‘s last five scores in T20Is read 0, 16*, 0, 6 and 5. The fact that he has batted at No. 6 and comes in with little time left on each occasion means he has often had to go slam-bang from ball one. That undoubtedly makes his job doubly challenging, but opting for overseas leagues in place of an NZC contract could imply he might be running out of time rather soon.
Across 20 innings this year, India have tried Rishabh Pant
four times as opener, where he sparkled briefly only twice. Two of those four innings came with India testing him at the top, including in Mount Maunganui. Pant had lost out to Dinesh Karthik
during almost the entire T20 World Cup, and if India decide that his best place in the team is as opener, he now has Kishan to compete with. Nevertheless, once Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul and Virat Kohli return, the question will still stand even if Pant goes big in Napier: what do India do with him
New Zealand can at best level the series, something they will have to attempt without Williamson, who has a pre-arranged medical appointment. Southee is set to lead in his absence, with Mark Chapman
likely to find a slot in the side.
New Zealand (probable): 1 Finn Allen, 2 Devon Conway (wk), 3 Mark Chapman, 4 Glenn Phillips, 5 Daryl Mitchell, 6 James Neesham, 7 Mitchell Santner, 8 Tim Southee (capt), 9 Ish Sodhi, 10 Adam Milne, 11 Lockie Ferguson
India might not want to tinker with their XI even if that would mean multiple names don’t get a chance in the T20Is. If that does happen, Shubman Gill will have to continue to wait for his debut, and Sanju Samson
for his next opportunity with the national side, despite scoring 2*, 30* and 86* in his last three innings for India, even if that came in ODIs.
India (probable): 1 Ishan Kishan, 2 Rishabh Pant (wk), 3 Suryakumar Yadav, 4 Shreyas Iyer, 5 Deepak Hooda, 6 Hardik Pandya (capt), 7 Washington Sundar, 8 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 9 Arshdeep Singh, 10 Mohammed Siraj, 11 Yuzvendra Chahal
The match starts at 7.30pm local time, and it is expected to be pleasant and cloudy in Napier in the evening, with some rain around. The last T20I at McLean Park was washed out, with scores batting first fluctuating even in the four completed games. The highest of those was England’s 241 in 2019
“Everyone watched some of his shots in amazement. We have had a few discussions already, and will have some more tomorrow morning before the game around how we can combat him.”
No prizes for guessing that Gary Stead, New Zealand’s coach, is scratching his head around Suryakumar Yadav’s 111*