They may not have the perfect T20 side. They may not have the perfect T20 template. But they are still the runners up in the 2021 T20 World Cup which concluded less than a week ago. On Friday night (November 17), New Zealand lost to India in the first T20I in Jaipur but dropped enough hints of why they are a tough side to beat despite limited resources. They just have the knack of making things tough for the opponent by cashing in on important moments.
"It didn't come as easy as we expected, so great learning for the guys, to understand what needs to be done, not about power-hitting all the time,” said the India skipper Rohit Sharma in the post-match presentation, acknowledging New Zealand’s efforts.
However, touring India, after four years, New Zealand also got an early realization that India is a tough nut to crack in their home conditions. Since 2018, India have won 14 out of the 21 completed T20Is at home. They have taken down some top sides including the number one ranked England. One game is too small a sample size to conclude anything but it is clear that New Zealand, despite their reputation of punching above their weight, have their task cut out against India in India. The time is already running out as the second T20I, to be played in Ranchi on November 19, can seal the fate of the series in favor of the opposition.
How long can New Zealand continue with their batting template?
The Kiwis flew straight to India from their remarkable T20 World Cup campaign and are employing the same template that took them to the final in UAE. Since October 16, 2021, the day the T20 World Cup began, New Zealand have a run-rate of only 6.5 in the first half of the innings as compared to 9.7 in the second half. The difference of 3.2 runs per over is second only to Pakistan amongst Test playing nations.
While it sits well with their lack of batting depth and the sluggish conditions in UAE, it was baffling in Jaipur. On a true batting wicket, Martin Guptill and Mark Chapman did not force the pace for a majority of their partnership span. Their second wicket stand, starting from the first over itself, lasted for 77 balls. Yet, the boundary percentage between overs 7 to 10 for New Zealand was only 16.6, as compared to India’s 48.8. It was a stubborn approach to obey the template rather than adapting to the conditions. If Ranchi has another true wicket on offer, the Kiwis will need to fine tune their approach.
India’s powerless powerplay returns
It sounds like a broken record now but India’s poor bowling returns in the powerplay continue to haunt them. India now have only 15 powerplay wickets in 14 matches this year. Bhuvneshwar Kumar cleaned up Daryl Mitchell in the first over in the first T20I but there were no further reasons to celebrate in the next 11 overs.
It becomes more worrisome when your bowling attack is saturated with bowlers who can take the new ball. At the same time, its a complex bowling setup which is more competent with the new ball than bowling at the death. Hence, it was puzzling to see Bhuvneshwar and Deepak Chahar forming the three-man pace attack, two individuals with similar attributes.
One more seamer for New Zealand?
One aspect where New Zealand changed from their World Cup template was bringing in an extra spinner. While Todd Astle replaced Ish Sodhi, Rachin Ravindra came in for the ill James Neesham. It didn’t work out since New Zealand was a seamer short and had to bowl Daryl Mitchell to save 10 runs in the final over. A batting all-rounder, this was Mitchell’s first bowl after 10 T20Is. We can now expect the Kiwis to learn from the error and play Milne ahead of Astle.
India: Rohit Sharma (c), KL Rahul, Suryakumar Yadav, Shreyas Iyer, Rishabh Pant (wk), Venkatesh Iyer, Axar Patel, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Deepak Chahar/Avesh Khan/Harshal Patel, R Ashwin, Mohammad Siraj
New Zealand: Martin Guptill, Daryl Mitchell, Mark Chapman, Glenn Phillips, Tim Seifert (wk), Rachin Ravindra/James Neesham, Mitchell Santner, Tim Southee (c), Lockie Ferguson, Todd Astle/Adam Milne, Trent Boult