Rohit Sharma's Indian cricket team must win in Auckland if they have to stay alive in the series. (Image credit: Twitter)
In Twenty20 Internationals, India has endured a 12-year struggle when it comes to facing New Zealand. Ever since their encounter in 2007 at the World T20, India has been on the receiving end of heartbreaks. In Wellington, India were blown away in all departments. With the bat, Tim Seifert’s brilliant 84 and solid knocks from Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor boosted the Kiwis to their highest-score against India. The 80-run loss is a massive wake-up call for India as they look to sustain the momentum after winning the ODI series 4-1. With the next match in Auckland and with the short boundaries on offer, a similar display by New Zealand could prove fatal for Rohit’s side.
For New Zealand, the one thing that was missing in their ODI losses was the lack of a fast start from the openers. In the Wellington T20I, Seifert and Colin Munro gave the Kiwis an aggressive start. Both players found the boundary on a regular basis and at the end of the powerplay, they were scoring at a rate of over 10 runs an over. The high run-rate and combined with a solid opening partnership allowed the middle order to capitalise and end on a high.
With the ball, Williamson’s side has covered their bases with variety and pace. Lockie Ferguson made the difference with his pace which went over 150 kmph on a regular basis. Ish Sodhi and Mitchell Santner showed their ability to dry up the runs in the middle overs while Tim Southee was impressive with the ball. Before the match, Southee had admitted that he was worried about his form but he responded with 3/17 to bounce back in style.
For India, the nature of the loss has forced them to rethink. Khaleel Ahmed continued to struggle and the team could replace him with either Siddharth Kaul or Mohammad Siraj, who warmed the bench. The spinners, Krunal Pandya and Yuzvendra Chahal, did alright but the team management will also consider including chinaman Kuldeep Yadav.
India will be aiming to be sharp on the field, with Dinesh Karthik dropping two catches and the ever-dependable MS Dhoni dropping a catch off Seifert. With the bat, Shikhar Dhawan and Vijay Shankar showed some sustained aggression but the damage was already done as the asking rate mounted. A loss in Auckland will prolong India’s pain and the short boundaries will only make the task of the bowlers a lot harder.