MOHALI: Stung by an improved New Zealand the other night, a wary India would like to quickly get their house in order when they square off with Kane Williamson‘s boys in the third ODI on Sunday.
While the six-run defeat in Delhi has given India plenty to ponder about, it has also renewed interest in the contest which had been dominated by the home team prior to Thursday, stretching from the one-sided Test series to the first ODI in Dharamsala.
From a New Zealand point of view, a victory was all that they needed after a string of deflating defeats. As a result of their first win on Indian soil in 13 years, one can expect a certain spring in the stride of the visitors when they take the field at the PCA Stadium here.
India, on the other hand, can only blame themselves for suffering a rude shock after failing to chase down a 243-run target, a total they were expected to overhaul with little difficulty.
As captain MS Dhoni put it, the hosts would have won the game had some of their batsmen had made an extra 10-15 runs instead of getting out at crucial junctures.
Ajinkya Rahane, who has got the opportunity to cement his place in the ODI side in the absence of injured Shikhar Dhawan, squandered starts in both the games while opening alongside Rohit Sharma, who would also be keen to be back among the runs after a couple of failures.
Rohit had hurt his biceps during the last game but there hasn’t yet been any news about the extent or seriousness of the injury.
Number four Manish Pandey also needs to make an impact after he too could not capitalise on promising starts. In fact, most batsmen got their eye in at Kotla before throwing their wicket away, hurting India’s chances badly.
One of them was number six Kedar Jadhav, who impressed with his 41-run cameo and shared a 66-run fifth wicket stand with Dhoni. Had he been alongside Dhoni for another three-four overs, the outcome of the game could have been different.
Jadhav may get another game on Sunday as there is still no update on Suresh Raina‘s health.
With most batsmen not showing the required maturity to bail the team out of a tricky situation, it would be a tad unfair to only point fingers at Dhoni, who was made to work hard for his 39 before falling to a brilliant return catch by Tim Southee.
The Indian skipper, who is clearly past his prime but his countless fans would be hoping for another ‘Dhoni’ special in the games to come, considering the team plays only a few limited overs matches during this home season.
Interestingly, in the last ODI played here three years ago, Dhoni had smashed an unbeaten 139, albeit in a losing cause against Australia. He is yet to score an international hundred since then.
Last but not the least, India’s batting mainstay Virat Kohli will be expected to showcase his masterclass yet again after getting out to a brilliant leg-side catch by Luke Ronchi on Thursday.
In his last international match at this ground on March 27, Kohli had famously hammered 82 off 51 balls against Australia to singlehandedly take India into the World T20 semifinals. The local crowd would certainly be hoping for an encore.
The dew at this time of the year, will be a factor again, just like it was in Delhi and Dharamsala. With the home team having won all the tosses so far, the bowlers have done a decent job bowing first.
Umesh Yadav and Hardik Pandya have been effective with the new ball with Jasprit Bumrah providing a strong back-up, especially reducing Dhoni’s headache in the death overs by bowling yorkers at will.
Pandya has made his presence his felt, both with bat and ball, since making his ODI debut in Dharamsala. He almost got the team over the line in the tense chase at Kotla before falling to a rather ordinary shot selection in the penultimate over of the innings.
Spinners Amit Mishra and Axar Patel have performed their role well, especially the leg-spinner who ended up with a three-wicket haul in both the matches.
While India would look to reassert themselves over the opposition again, a reinvigorated New Zealand would be keen to cash in on the slight momentum they have gained with their first win of the tour.
The Kiwis made three changes in the last game but only pacer Trent Boult delivered on his return, ending with tidy figures of 2/25 in 10 overs. Anton Devcich playing in place of Jimmy Neesham did nothing to write home about while speedster Matt Henry, picked ahead of spinner Ish Sodhi, finished with figures of 1/51 in his full quota of overs.
It will be interesting to see whether New Zealand stick to picking only one specialist spinner in Mitchell Santner or they bring back Sodhi.
The bulk of the burden in the batting department will be borne by skipper Kane Williamson, who led from the front by smashing his eighth ODI hundred, also the first of the tour from a New Zealand batsman.
But the one batman that has been consistent for them is opener Tom Latham, who has carried his form of the Test series smoothly into the one-day series.
The away side would also have to ensure there is no batting collapse like it happened in Delhi. New Zealand had ended with a below-par score after losing their way from 158 for two in the 30th over to end up with 242.
They would also be hoping opener Martin Guptill and Ross Taylor return to form after a prolonged lean patch.