SCA Stadium, Rajkot
November 4, Saturday; 19:00 IST
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The main picture
New Zealand’s performance in Delhi in all three departments pointed to a lack of confidence. They dropped catches, bowled badly and without ideas and the batsmen just couldn’t get going in a chase of 203. All these despite the visitors making just two changes—Tom Bruce coming in for Ross Taylor and Ish Sodhi replacing Adam Milne—to the side who lost the ODI series. Twenty20 cricket anyway involves performing under pressure and New Zealand, despite the strong characters in their dressing room, failed to raise their game.
Looking ahead to the 2nd T20, the Blackcaps have to improve drastically and collectively come good if they are to level the series. They need the Martin Guptills, Trent Boults and Kane Williamsons to complement Mitchell Santner and Ish Sodhi, who, you feel, are integral to their team’s chances of winning. The Indian batsmen haven’t entirely been comfortable playing spin of late and that discomfort is an opportunity for the New Zealand spinners to take wickets or at least stifle the home team’s batting line-up. Sodhi bowled extremely well at the Feroz Shah Kotla, while Santner was his usual self: they conceded only 55 runs in their combined eight overs and took two wickets too.
In the capital, Team India right the wrongs of their Kiwi counterparts: they took sensational catches, the batsmen, with help from the New Zealand fielders and bowlers, made the most of the good batting conditions and the Indian bowlers used the scoreboard pressure to their advantage.
India are 1-0 up in this series and though they cannot take this advantage for granted, they have put themselves in a position to boss proceedings from here on. On the contrary, New Zealand, being the team who are 1-0 down, have to do all the running and as is always the case when you are in a do-or-die situation, you face a test of character and your credentials. Also from India’s perspective, they adopted a new team combination for the first T20, in which they fielded five proper bowlers, five batsmen (including the wicketkeeper MS Dhoni) and one all-rounder. We will see on Saturday if that was just a temporary plan because they had to accommodate Ashish Nehra in the playing XI and give him his deserved farewell.
The Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium in Rajkot is a relatively new venue in terms of the number of matches it has hosted till date (one Test, two ODIs and one T20I). The takeaway from those fixtures is that this is a high-scoring venue where the pitch is normally good for batting. Dew has been a factor at pretty much every venue on this tour and it might once again be in Saurashtra too, meaning the captain winning the toss will look to bowl first and give his bowlers the best conditions to be effective. The weather forecast says that Saturday will be very warm and see plenty of sunshine, with a high of 36 degree Celsius and a low of 21 degree Celsius.
IND: WNRLWW (last five T20 Internationals, from left to right)
2nd T20: India vs New Zealand playing XI
As aforementioned, India will have to decide whether they want to stick with the winning formula of fielding five bowlers, five batsmen and one all-rounder. My belief is that Virat Kohli and the team management will persist with the 5-5-1 combination which worked wonders for them on Wednesday. Therefore, the now-retired Ashish Nehra is likely to be replaced by Mohammed Siraj, who, in which case, will become the second Indian debutant in this series. The problem for India, if they retain this team combination, will arise if they lose early wickets and the batting line-up becomes stretched.
Probable India playing 11 for the 2nd T20: 1 Virat Kohli (c), 2 Rohit Sharma, 3 Shikhar Dhawan, 4 Shreyas Iyer, 5 MS Dhoni (wk), 6 Hardik Pandya, 7 Axar Patel, 8 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 9 Yuzvendra Chahal, 10 Jasprit Bumrah, and 11 Mohammed Siraj
For New Zealand, the extra pace of Adam Milne will be of great help! Tim Southee has been expensive throughout this tour and the greater worry for the team management will be the predictability of this seasoned campaigner. Dropping Southee will be a bold decision but one that the visitors need to make with needs must. They, however, have another option: leave out Tom Bruce and play an extra bowler, similar to what India did and will do. Guptill is the other senior pro whose place is under threat, but he will probably feature in the playing XI one more time.
Possible New Zealand playing XI: 1 Kane Williamson (c), 2 Martin Guptill, 3 Colin Munro, 4 Tom Latham (wk), 5 Tom Bruce, 6 Henry Nicholls, 7 Colin de Grandhomme, 8 Mitchell Santner, 9 Adam Milne, 10 Trent Boult, and 11 Ish Sodhi
India have the winning formula in place and are a confident side too, meaning they start Saturday’s T20 as firm favourites. New Zealand have quality personnel in their ranks and the minimum requirement is to not repeat the costly mistakes they made in Delhi. For the Kiwis to potentially win the 2nd T20 and take this series to a decider, they need their bowlers to take early wickets, whether they bowl first or second.