It is the game everyone was waiting for, for about a week now. It has a high significance attached to it. As the World Cup proceeds, this could turn out to be a potential quarter-final in retrospect. It is odd because these are still early days in the tournament for that. But such are the dynamics of this group that the winner is expected to be the second semi-finalist, with Pakistan being the first.
Given what is at stake, New Zealand will take confidence from their brilliant record against India in ICC events. Their 75 percent win record is the highest for any side versus India in ICC events. They edged past India in the World Test Championship final, the 2019 ODI World Cup semi-final and now they might want to replicate it in an anticipated quarter-final in a T20 world Cup.
Boult equipped to scratch old wounds
Left-arm pace has often caused the domino effect in India’s top-order. It is largely an uncharted territory for Indian batters who don’t face enough of it back home, especially when it swings. That is what caused their undoing against Pakistan in a feisty spell from Shaheen Shah Afridi.
Rohit Sharma averages only 17.1 against left-arm pace in the Powerplay. Kohli and Rahul have given precedence to survival.
New Zealand have the perfect weapon in Trent Boult to pounce on India’s Achilles heel. Given the swing on offer in Dubai, Boult versus India’s top three is the contest to watch out for in this match. There will be a certain deja vu factor attached as well. India, with the same top order, were reduced to 5 for 3 in the 2019 ODI World Cup semi-final. Boult picked only one of those three wickets but his new ball spell of 6-2-15-1 left a far-reaching effect.
“Hopefully I can mirror what Shaheen did to India the other night,” said Boult on the eve of the match, setting the tone for the contest.
A passing stat: In seven T20s in Dubai, Boult has snapped eight wickets at 15.5 runs apiece alongside an economy of 6.9
Kohli’s form and match-ups
A shimmy down the track to crack an in-form pacer for maximum over long-on. Virat Kohli’s six against Afridi in the last game was a sign of a batsman in form. Kohli, however, has appeared in good touch in the Powerplay for most part of the year without carrying it to the middle phase.
The Indian skipper has continuously lost momentum against spinners, failing to time the ball and hit the gaps. His T20 strike-rate against spin this year is only 93.4 in 16 innings.
It brings the Kiwi spinners - Mitchell Santner and Ish Sodhi in play. Kohli’s strike-rate against left-arm orthodox and leg-spinners stands at 93.5 and 91.2 respectively. You add Trent Boult’s left-arm pace to the list and Kohli has three match-ups to counter. However, Pakistan had a similar kind of an attack and Kohli saw his way through to a fine 57.
Indian bowlers powerless in the Powerplay
Not just with the bat, but India’s start with the ball will be under the radar as well. Since 2020, India’s Powerplay bowling numbers have aggravated in both forms of white-ball cricket. Picking only 20 wickets in 19 T20Is 2020 onwards, India have the worst bowling strike-rate with the new ball.
It is linked directly with the dip in form of the leading bowlers along with the strategy to bowl Jasprit Bumrah only one over in the Powerplay. Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who has bowled 17 overs for India in the Powerplay since 2020 and has only four wickets in nine matches to show for his efforts. It is a thorn in India’s flesh that has left them chasing the game more often than not.
New Zealand’s strange batting setup
The Blackcaps have a strange batting line-up where four batsmen are batting out of position. Their middle-order is stacked with batters who have established their career batting in the top three.
Devon Conway, number four, has played nearly 71% of his T20 innings in top three. For Glenn Phillips, number five, the figure is 65%, while Tim Seifert, number six, has batted 60% of his T20 career in the top-order. Batting lower is tougher for a top-order batter in T20 cricket rather than vice-versa. Hence, it is surprising that Daryl Mitchell, primarily a middle-order batter, is opening with Martin Guptill.
The form of Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Hardik Pandya are becoming a concern for Men in Blue. Hardik’s bowling fitness has become a hot topic amongst the Indian fans and the media. While the team has backed them, it is tough not to look at available options in Ishan Kishan and Shardul Thakur. We can expect at least one of the two changes in the XI.
KL Rahul, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli (c), Suryakumar Yadav, Rishabh Pant (wk), Hardik Pandya/Ishan Kishan, Ravindra Jadeja, Bhuvneshwar Kumar/Shardul Thakur, Mohammad Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Varun Chakravarthy
Guptill is fit after suffering a blow on his left toe. Adam Milne is available for selection now after ICC sanctioned his inclusion to replace the injured Lockie Ferguson in the squad. New Zealand would like to have his pace in their bowling arsenal. Whom does he replace? Tim Southee seems to be the only contender.
Martin Guptill, Daryl Mitchell, Kane Williamson (c), Devon Conway, Glenn Phillips, Tim Seifert (wk), James Neesham, Mitchell Santner, Tim Southee/Adam Milne, Ish Sodhi, Trent Boult