Sunday, 5 December 2021

New Zealand must lift its game to keep series alive

New Zealand
ICC: After a dominant performance in the first T20I, India will back itself to maintain its hold over the visiting side.

India had lost five of its six Twenty20 Internationals, with one washed out, against New Zealand until the first game of the ongoing series in New Delhi on Wednesday. When the two teams face off in the second of three matches at the Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium in Rajkot on Saturday (November 4), India will back its chances of making it 2-5.

In the previous match, which will be remembered as Ashish Nehra’s last international outing, India asserted its dominance with a resounding 53-run victory. Nehra’s will be missed for his skill and experience, but depth in India’s quick bowling reserves ensures that the area is sufficiently covered.

For New Zealand, a side that prides itself on its athleticism, one major area of focus will be its fielding, after three dropped chances cost it dearly in the series opener, with Kane Williamson saying that the dew was no excuse.

The dew, which caused difficulties for the New Zealand fieldsmen and bowlers in New Delhi is likely to make an appearance even on Friday, and the pitch in Rajkot, which has traditionally favoured batsmen, can be expected to play out along similar lines for the second T20I.

India’s confidence will be buoyed by the fact that Yuzvendra Chahal and Axar Patel, the spinners, displayed exemplary control in the first T20I and at least Axar, now on home territory, is confident of doing even better come Saturday. “It’s my home ground so I know what to expect from the wicket,” said the left-arm spinner. “I’m looking to bowl the way I did in the IPL because you don’t get much turn, it’s skiddy and there’s not much bounce.”

Not only the spinners, but India’s fast bowlers did a fair job as well. Nehra was economical, conceding just 29 runs in four overs although without a wicket. Bhuvneshwar Kumar continued his good form, while Jasprit Bumrah was a tad expensive. With Nehra out of the picture now, it will be interesting to see if India hands Mohammed Siraj, the Hyderabad quick who impressed during the last Indian Premier League, a debut or add another batsman.

Such was India’s dominance in New Delhi that Shreyas Iyer, who was handed his India cap, didn’t even get a chance with the bat. It will be interesting to see how the agressive Mumbai batsman fares should the opportunity arise in Rajkot.

Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan cashed in on dropped chances to stitch a record 153-run opening stand, with both openers scoring 80, Dhawan slightly quicker than Rohit. Virat Kohli also cashed in on an early reprieve to tonk 26 not out from 11 balls to help India put up 202 for 3, far too many on the night for the visiting side.

Where India looks a well-settled lot, New Zealand has a few questions to answer, especially with the batting for of Colin Munro, who scored 75 in the final One-Day International after two average outings, which India won 2-1, and fell for seven in the first T20I. Colin de Grandhomme, who also had only one good innings in the ODIs, was out for a golden duck in the first T20I. Their bowling has also been off the boil, and India might target them in both the innings.

One of them might have to make way for one of Ross Taylor or Glenn Phillips. Taylor, once known for his ability to clear the deep fence at will, was dropped from the side after the ICC World T20 last year after a sustained lean patch. Called back for this series, he might have to take up the enforcer’s mantle if New Zealand is to save the series.

New Zealand’s spinners were the only ones that looked in complete command of the demands in the first game. Ish Sodhi, the leg-spinner, took 2 for 25 in four overs. Mitchell Santner was also economical with his left-arm spin and later scored a 14-ball 27 not out. The onus will be on New Zealand’s quicks and fielders to back them up.

New Zealand had gone 1-0 up in the ODI series before India bounced back remarkably. This time New Zealand has its backs to the wall, and will look to take a leaf from the home side’s book.

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