Mount Maunganui has wonderful memories for the Indian cricket team. In 2018 last year, the Under-19 squad, led by Prithvi Shaw and which included Shubman Gill clinched the U-19 World Cup by hammering Australia. A year later, Virat Kohli’s side, fresh from a historic bilateral ODI series win in Australia and an eight-wicket hammering of New Zealand in Napier, arrive at the Bay Oval with confidence on an ultimate high. After the end of the first ODI, Kohli remarked in the post-match presser that it was one of the most complete performances he had seen. The clinical efficiency of the Indian batsmen and the bowlers at McLean Park was enough to give New Zealand plenty of issues.
The bowling unit and the batsmen, including Kohli, MS Dhoni, Rohit Sharma and Kedar Jadhav had all fired in the series against Australia. What will make the Indian skipper happy is the return to form of Shikhar Dhawan, who scored a fifty after nine innings and went past 5000 runs in the game in Napier. Dhawan’s form at the top gives India an extra edge. With the suspension on Hardik Pandya removed, the Indian team could have a balanced combination. However, Pandya might play in the third ODI at the same venue on Monday and this leaves one or two slots open. With Ambati Rayudu not clicking and with Vijay Shankar not getting a decent hit in the middle, the question remains as to whether Kohli will get Ravindra Jadeja in the side or will they hand a debut to Shubman Gill.
The bowling has faced no issues and the wristspinning duo of Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav will once again be the key. Kuldeep admitted that the lengths they bowled on a flat deck in Napier and the variations employed played a big role in New Zealand getting bowled out for a low score.
For New Zealand, their woes are plenty. With the bat, all of them struggled to cope with the seam movement of Mohammed Shami and the spinners. Barring Kane Williamson, all played poor shots or showed poor misjudgment. Williamson’s 36th fifty underlined his class but he found no support. With such a low total, Tim Southee and Trent Boult did not have enough runs to defend but Lockie Ferguson impressed with his pace and hostility. On a flat Bay Oval deck, he could once again prove to be the difference.
In the last two encounters at the Bay Oval, New Zealand managed to score 371/7 and 319/7 against Sri Lanka. In both instances, the opposition chasing had a fair chance with Kusal Perera and Thisara Perera comfortably clearing the boundaries but it required an all-round effort to get them going. Another batting failure for New Zealand could signal a reversal of the 2014 result, in which they hammered India 4-0.