Shreyas Iyer's finishing prowess and his form at No.4 will give the Indian cricket team management plenty of confidence to give him a long run. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)
For the last 25 years, when it comes to limited overs cricket, Eden Park Auckland has been a kind venue to the Indian cricket team. In 26 years, they have won three and lost only one in five ODIs. During their 2014 nightmare, the only match in which they managed to hold their head high was during the high-scoring tie in Auckland. In Twenty20 Internationals, Eden Park helped India break their jinx in New Zealand as they won for the first time in the country in 2019. Now, in 2020, India's love affair with Auckland continued as they chased down a target of over 200 for the fourth time and they took a lead in the series with a six-wicket win.
With history firmly in India's favour in Auckland, Virat Kohli's team will be determined to extend their advantage on the back of a power-packed performance with the bat. The small dimensions, combined with dew and a flat wicket seemed to assist India more than New Zealand, with the Kiwi pace attack unable to contain the flow of runs. It was a run-fest on Friday and Sunday promises to be no different. With batsmen from both sides clicking, teams might be tempted to make changes in the boowling.
Kane Williamson, Colin Munro, Martin Guptill and Ross Taylor were the stars while Virat Kohli, KL Rahul and Shreyas Iyer were the pillars for the Indian side. The form of Iyer, in particular, will warm the hearts of Indian fans and his ability to finish off the match from the No.4 slot is a welcome sight. With Rahul opening and keeping wickets, the composition of the Indian batting looks solid. But, Iyer, who has featured in all 12 T20Is this season and has an average of 34 and a strike-rate close to 150, could prove to be the difference maker in the series.
Kohli remarked after the end of the first game that this kind of win sets up the tour nicely and the second match gives them a chance to finally break their T20I hoodoo in the 'Land Of The Long White Cloud'. For Kane Williamson, his lack of bowling depth hurt the side in Auckland and this could be the trend as the series progresses.
Shardul Thakur was taken to the cleaners in the first game and he might make way for Navdeep Saini. However, Saini, with his extra pace, too could go for big runs at the small ground. It remains to be seen whether India stick to three specialist pacers and two spinners combination or bring in an extra tweaker in Kuldeep Yadav to partner Yuzvendra Chahal and Ravindra Jadeja. Washington Sundar is the the other spin option India have. If India do play an extra tweaker, all-rounder Shivam Dube will be third fast bowling option. Considering the conditions, Jadeja and Chahal had done a decent job on Friday, conceding 50 runs off 36 balls and taking a wicket each.
Additionally, Chahal and Kuldeep are yet to play together since the ODI World Cup ended. With the batting bearing a settled look, the team management might be keen to take a punt on their reunion.
Kane Williamson has a challenge when it comes to managing the bowling in the New Zealand team. (Image credit: Getty Images)
India won key battles during their innings in that new batsmen at the crease were able to maintain the momentum previously generated. It is something New Zealand cannot simply fix with a change in personnel. As such they will be hoping the likes of Colin de Grandhomme and Tim Seifert to come good. There is a school of thought in the hosts' camp that Williamson should open the batting in T20 cricket, thus taking advantage of the powerplay overs.
Given the lightning start provided by openers Martin Guptill and Colin Munro, this seems infeasible for the next game, atleast. New Zealand expect to field the same eleven, avoiding any temptation to take a look at all-rounders Scott Kuggeleijn and Daryl Mitchell.
The pitch in Eden Park was typical of the dynamics of the venue - high-scoring, flat and a gravveyard for bowlers. More of the same is expected for the second game. The weather in Auckland is fair for Sunday with a 10 percent chances of rain, which is almost nil.
The high humidity of 70 percent could see dew play a part. New Zealand have won only six out of their 19 Twenty20 encounters in Auckland and they will have to play with all their inspiration to draw level.