After dominating in the first two matches of the five-match series against the hosts New Zealand, Virat Kohli’s brigade will be eyeing to become the first Indian unit to clinch a T20I series in New Zealand.
Team India commenced 2020 with a bang by winning the first series (T20I) of the year against Sri Lanka 2-1 and an ODI series against Australia 2-1. Now the second T20I series win of the year will be a frosting on the cake for the Men in Blue, who have never won a series in the shortest format in the Island fringing the Tasman Sea.
The third match at Seddon Park, Hamilton, is at the same ground where India faced a four runs defeat at the hands of the hosts in the decider of the 3- match T20I series in February 2019 under the leadership of Rohit Sharma. However, this time the scenario is different with a lot of changes in the team. India even have an energetic bench strength that indicates that India need not to worry for the upcoming T20I World Cup slated to be held this year in Australia.
India are unlikely to make any changes in their winning combination barring a few alterations in the bowling department. Shardul Thakur, who proved to be expensive conceding 13 runs per over in this series so far might make way for Navdeep Saini in the playing XI. Both Thakur (2/65 in 5 overs) and Mohammed Shami (0/75 in 8 overs) helped New Zealand batsmen collect boundaries due to their pace. India might go to test their bench strength as they have Saini who played outstandingly in the T20Is series against Sri Lanka and was adjudged player of the series. He was the only bowler on either side to concede less than 6 runs per over.
Among the pacers, Jasprit Bumrah has been a stand out performer with an economy rate of 6.5 and a strike rate of 24 in the ongoing series. All-rounder Shivam Dube has also been very handy in his bowling display striking a wicket in every 15 deliveries.
Apart from expensive Thakur and Shami, overall India bowling unit looks settled. In the batting department, India have a top-order that is among runs with wicket-keeper batsman KL Rahul, skipper Virat Kohli and Shreyas Iyer.
KL Rahul scored back to back match-winning fifties to help the visitors kick start the tour on a high. Mumbai batsman Shreyas Iyer has cemented his place as the preferred number 4 batsman for India in the shorter formats of the game. He is also the 2nd highest run-scorer so far in the ongoing series after KL Rahul. In the series so far, Iyer has scored 102 runs at a strike rate of 164.51 with an unbeaten 58-run knock. Indian captain Virat Kohli, who has been in dazzling form since the start of 2019 in T20Is, has scored 578 runs in 14 innings averaging 64.22. In the first match, Virat Kohli shone with the bat by scoring 45 runs, while in the second match the skipper could not produce a satisfactory score but his overall form in the T20 format is spectacular.
The only possible concern in the India batting unit is Rohit Sharma’s inconsistency in T20Is and slow start to an innings. In the last ten T20I innings, Rohit Sharma has scored six single-figure scores. In the same period, he has gone past 20 run mark just twice, scoring 156 runs in two innings at a strike rate of 202.59. But on the eight times, he was dismissed below 20 run mark and scored 70 runs at a strike rate of 98.59.
No doubt, the 32-year-old Rohit Sharma is an exceptional limited-over player and during the last ODI World Cup, where he scored five centuries in the tournament, his contribution helped India advance into the semi-finals. His experience would help the young army on many occasions. India can still test some other young options for an opener, apart from Rohit.
On the other hand, New Zealand will put all efforts to not let the series go. Out of nine matches played at this venue, the hosts have emerged victorious seven times, and they will definitely try to build on the home advantage. Their batsmen have some good batting records in T20Is in Hamilton - Martin Guptill (highest run-scorer of all time at the venue- 287), Kane Williamson (Best T20I average in the current squad -77.50) and Colin Munro (Best T20I strike rate in the current squad- 197.10).
It is not often that a team comes back from behind to take the series but as India has seen both sides of the coin in the last 12 months, it is unlikely that they will let their guard down, against a team that never fails to give their best shot.