New Zealand went down in Hyderabad but showcased again that they won’t be beaten without a fight. Michael Bracewell’s blitzkrieg 140 off 78 balls brought the visitors back from the dead. The Indian bowlers had little idea how to weather the storm until Mohammed Siraj, in a rejuvenating phase in his white-ball career, struck twice in his 10th over. Even then, it required the mercurial Shardul Thakur to step up in the final over to end the game in India’s favor.
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Bracewell’s knock underlined why New Zealand is a stiffer challenge for India after the hosts whitewashed Sri Lanka 3-0 which also included the biggest win in ODI cricket while defending a total. In fact, the Kiwis took both their last two ODI series in India (2016 and 2017) to series deciders. The second game becomes a do-or-die contest for the visitors and India, despite being on a winning streak at home and the Kiwis missing some key players, will have their socks pulled up to seal the series.
Things to watch out for
The Men in Blue are unbeaten in four ODIs this year but have a couple of issues to address. The first is their dubious numbers against lower middle-order batters. In their last six ODIs, they have conceded three hundreds to batters batting at number six or below - Mehidy Hasan’s 100* in Mirpur, Dasun Shanaka’s 108* in Guwahati and Bracewell’s 140 in Hyderabad. More so, the Indian bowlers have looked flat when the attack is taken to them.
The ominous pattern makes India prone to teams that bat deep. New Zealand have Mitchell Santner at number eight who made an impact with a well-paced half-century in Hyderabad.
There will also be eyes on Rohit Sharma. The India skipper averages in excess of 40 in ODIs since 2021. However, a big score has evaded. He has looked good every time before throwing his wicket away. It is like a fatal error is always around the corner irrespective of how well he is batting. Consequently, Rohit’s highest score since 2021 is 83 while the last century came in January 2020. It is not a matter of concern yet but the management would want a significant contribution from Rohit Sharma, the batsman, soon.
Meanwhile, the BlackCaps outfit will be tasked to contain a raging Indian batting line-up, which has mounted scores of 373, 390 and 349 in their last four ODIs. To add to it further, New Zealand have to do it with a depleted bowling arsenal - no Tim Southee and no Trent Boult. The other pacers in the squad have collectively played only 83 ODIs with Henry Shipley, Blair Tickner and Jacob Duffy holding an experience of only 11 ODIs in between them.
But a bigger blow is the absence of Ish Sodhi who suffered an ankle injury during the last ODI in Pakistan. Spin has surfaced as the only measure to strangle the Indian side in sub-continent conditions - as shown by Bangladesh last month - and Sodhi’s absence leaves New Zealand only with Santner and the part-time off-spin of Bracewell and Glenn Phillips.
Pitch and conditions
Raipur will be hosting its first ODI, becoming the 50th venue to host ODI cricket in the country. The venue has not hosted any recognized form of cricket since the 2019/20 Ranji Trophy season. Hence, little can be said about the venue with conviction. It is one of the biggest cricketing venues in India so you can expect a lot of catches at the boundary ropes.
- Virat Kohli’s mediocre record against left-arm spinners should tempt New Zealand to bowl Mitchell Santner against the former India skipper. Since 2022, in ODIs, Kohli has six dismissals against spin in nine innings out of which five are from left-arm finger spinners. Overall, his average and strike-rate against left-arm spin is the lowest across against all bowling types across formats since 2022.
- Henry Nicholls, filling for Kane Williamson in this series, is vulnerable to left-arm wrist spinners. The left-hander averages only 17.3 against left-arm wrist spin for three dismissals. Kuldeep Yadav has accounted for two of those dismissals, including one in Hyderabad, and will fancy targeting him again.
The current Indian management believes in the pecking order and giving a long rope to their players. Hence, we can expect the same XI that survived the Bracewell scare in Hyderabad.
Rohit Sharma ( c ), Shubman Gill, Virat Kohli, Ishan Kishan (wk), Suryakumar Yadav, Hardik Pandya, Washington Sundar, Kuldeep Yadav, Umran Malik, Mohammed Siraj, Mohammed Shami
New Zealand may also continue with the same personnel despite a defeat, mainly because of the lack of experienced pros in their squad. However, there could be a case to include Doug Bracewell, in place of either of Shipley or Tickner.
New Zealand: Finn Allen, Devon Conway, Henry Nicholls, Daryl Mitchell, Tom Latham (c/wk), Glenn Phillips, Michael Bracewell, Mitchell Santner, Henry Shipley, Blair Tickner, Lockie Ferguson