India and New Zealand were extremely lucky to get a full game in Mount Maunganui and they would hope for a stroke of similar luck in Napier on Tuesday (November 22). Of late, the weather hasn’t been cricket-friendly in New Zealand and the first T20I in Wellington was washed out without a single delivery being bowled.
There were showers predicted throughout the evening during the second T20I as well but the rain gods showed some mercy and the entire cricket world got to witness yet “another video game innings” from Suryakumar Yadav. The top-ranked T20I batter smoked his second century in the format and single-handedly decimated New Zealand’s bowling attack.
Now, if the Blackcaps want to level the three-match series at McLean Park, they would first hope that the sky remains clear throughout the evening. Once that’s sorted, they will have to find a way to keep Mr. SKY quiet or they could once again witness a shower of fours and sixes.
India can’t always depend on SKY
India in second T20I: Suryakumar Yadav - 111* off 51 balls | Other Indian batters - 69 off 69 balls
It was just a normal day at the office for Suryakumar. The Bay Oval surface was a bit tacky but that was never going to stop him from playing all kinds of shots. The right-hander smashed 11 fours and seven sixes on a surface where every other batter struggled to get going. Ishan Kishan did score 36 but it took him 31 deliveries to get there. For New Zealand, Kane Williamson made a painful 52-ball 61 and never looked comfortable out there in the middle. It was Suryakumar’s knock that made all the difference.
"Anytime a T20 player gets a hundred in a match, it's quite often the difference. You look at the rest of the side and the way we sort of batted, his innings was miles apart from anything else we saw today. Probably made them get to a score that was probably a little bit more than what we were hoping for. It was an exceptional innings and it was the difference between restricting India to 175-180 and then getting above 190,” said Tim Southee after the second T20I.
Well, this was not the first time Suryakumar has cleaned up the top-order’s mess. You don’t have to go too back, just look at what happened in the T20 World Cup. If not for his 25-ball 51* vs Netherlands, 40-ball 68 vs South Africa, 16-ball 30 vs Bangladesh and 25-ball 61* vs Zimbabwe, India would have ended up with a below-par score in each of these four games. The likes of Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul and Virat Kohli were rightly criticised for being too conservative in the first 10 overs, and it was no different on Sunday.
The Men in Blue went with an opening combination of Kishan and Rishabh Pant in the second T20I. While the former did manage to take advantage of some lackluster bowling from New Zealand seamers in the first four overs, Pant could only score 6 off 13 deliveries. Shreyas Iyer looked good against spin but couldn’t carry on, while skipper Hardik Pandya managed a run-a-ball 13. You can’t really blame Deepak Hooda and Washington Sundar as they walked out to bat only in the last over. As much as the management would want SKY to carry forward his brilliant form, they would also want other batters to step up and make a case for themselves for the next T20 World Cup.
Why no Samson, Umran Malik?
You got to feel bad for Sanju Samson! The 28-year-old from Kerala was expected to be the first player to walk into the playing XI after India’s T20 World Cup debacle but Samson was once again seen warming the bench. An average of 32.31 and a strike rate of 144.6 in the last five seasons of Indian Premier League tells he hasn’t just been consistent but has also scored runs at a rapid pace. He is versatile enough to bat anywhere in the order, so it was surprising to see the likes of Kishan, Iyer and Hooda preferred over him.
Hooda did claim four wickets with his part-time offspin, which is a good sign for India, but he is not someone who enjoys batting at No. 6. “I have bowled a lot, going forward I want to see more bowling options. Not always that this will work but I want more batters to chip in with the ball,” said Pandya.
You could understand why the management want Hooda in the XI but they could have easily left out one of Pant, Iyer or Kishan to play Samson. Suryakumar is the king of middle overs but he wouldn’t mind some company who could be equally destructive against both pace and spin. In fact, we all know how good SKY has been of late and India have the option of resting him and giving Samson some game time.
It was also strange to see India persist with Bhuvneshwar Kumar. The 32-year-old seamer was brilliant with the ball but it’s highly doubtful that we are going to see him in the 2024 T20 World Cup. The right-armer has a history of underperforming in crunch games and India could have easily gone with one of Umran Malik or Harshal Patel. The latter didn’t play a single game in the 2022 T20 World Cup but could prove to be a handful on the slow West Indies surfaces. Then there is Umran. The tearaway quick from Jammu and Kashmir is still raw but there is no harm in trying him out in these bilateral series. There is no substitute for genuine pace and India need someone like him in the white-ball set-up.
The hosts will be without their skipper in the final T20I and that could actually work in their favour. Amongst batters from the top-10 ranked T20I nations, Williamson has the fifth-worst strike rate in this format since 2021 (minimum 500 deliveries). His strike rate of 87.1 in the powerplay since 2021 is the second-worst after Temba Bavuma’s 85.4. On Sunday, the right-hander was on 12 off 19 deliveries at the end of six overs and the Black Caps never looked alive in the 192-run chase.
New Zealand would also want a bit more from Devon Conway who scored 25 off 22 in the second T20I. The two are the only New Zealand batters with a strike rate of below 125 this year and often end up consuming more than 50 percent of the total deliveries. Which means, the likes of Glenn Phillips (SR 155.8), Daryl Mitchell (142.8) and James Neesham (176.6) don’t get to face too many deliveries. Mark Chapman has been brought in as Williamson’s replacement and the left-hander has a strike rate of 173.2 in seven T20Is he has played this year. The McLean Park is known to be a big-hitting ground and the Blackcaps could be better served without Williamson.
India - Ishan Kishan, Rishabh Pant (wk), Suryakumar Yadav, Shreyas Iyer/Sanju Samson, Deepak Hooda, Hardik Pandya (c), Washington Sundar, Bhuvneshwar Kumar/Umran Malik, Arshdeep Singh, Mohammed Siraj, Yuzvendra Chahal.
New Zealand - Finn Allen, Devon Conway (wk), Mark Chapman, Glenn Phillips, Daryl Mitchell, James Neesham, Mitchell Santner, Ish Sodhi, Tim Southee (c), Adam Milne/Blair Tickner, Lockie Ferguson.