India will become the first team to have an even or positive head-to-head ratio against all teams if they win the final game against New Zealand in Mount Maunganui. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)
India are taking on South Africa in New Zealand in the ongoing series. Confused? Accurately, it is confounding. How does one explain not one but two consecutive chokes? The exhibition by New Zealand in the ongoing series has officially made them the new South Africa when it comes to stumbling in the final overs. The key for India is probably this. Take New Zealand to the final over of the chase irrespective of the target. The chances are New Zealand will botch it up and we could have yet another Super Over. New Zealand could not score two out of three in Hamilton and they failed to score three out of four in Wellington.
Heading into the Bay Oval, there is plenty at stake for both India and New Zealand. A win for the Kiwis will salvage some pride in what has been a turbulent two months. India, on the other hand, are invincible. They are now on the cusp of becoming the first nation to achieve a 5-0 whitewash in Twenty20 Internationals. A win in Bay Oval will make India the first nation in Twenty20 International history to have an even or positive head-to-head ratio against all teams. New Zealand have never lost all games in a bilateral T20I series (three or more matches) at home. Since 2005, they have only once lost all games in a bilateral T20I series at home, going down 2-0 to England back in February 2008.
New Zealand will be rueing the two tied matches in Hamilton and Wellington. Had they gotten over the line on both occasions, the fifth match at the Bay Oval would have been a decider. However, New Zealand have no one to blame but themselves. They failed to capitalise on the luck and the situation. Kane Williamson and Colin Munro, as well as Tim Seifert have contributed at times but they have not taken New Zealand over the line. In Wellington, India showed the depth they had with the batting with Manish Pandey and Shardul Thakur giving Virat Kohli's side a boost.
The team management would want Sanju Samson to show more patience, while backing him to come good once again. Meanwhile, Shivam Dube has lacked footwork against both spinners and pacers. Elsewhere, with Manish Pandey firming up the number six spot, Shreyas Iyer could be promoted to number three. The bigger question is about the keeper-batsman spot. Ever since the Australia series at home, KL Rahul has played with an increased workload in that role. Rishabh Pant, meanwhile, has been benched since suffering concussion in the first ODI against Australia in Mumbai.
India were boosted by Manish Pandey batting lower down the order as he slammed fifty. (Image credit: Getty Images)
While he has fully recovered, his spot in the first-choice playing eleven is long gone. In fact, his status in the current scheme of things is far worse. At the Westpac Stadium, Rohit Sharma was rested to create an additional space in the batting line-up. Logic dictates that Kohli will take Sunday off and Rohit could lead instead, thus continuing with the one additional batting spot. In the bowling department, Jasprit Bumrah could be rested with Mohammed Shami coming back to maintain the three-pacer theory. Meanwhile, Kane Williamson is expected to be fit for the clash, after he missed out in Wellington due to a left shoulder niggle. The Black Caps' team management were confident of his recovery even on Friday.
The weather at Mount Maunganui on Sunday is expected to be slightly cloudy with 10 percent chances of rain. However, the rain is expected to stay away but with 59 percent humidity, the dew might not be a big factor. There have been six T20Is played in Bay Oval and New Zealand have won four, with one match against West Indies being a no-result but their last encounter was a loss by 18 runs against Pakistan.
In the Test matches, the pitch was slow and low but in the T20Is, it could be a good wicket to bat on with the spinners getting some assistance.