India eye six out of six, Taylor happy farewell
March 14, 2015
Start time 1400 local (0100GMT)
Two teams at opposite ends of the Full-Member spectrum will finish their group-stage engagements tomorrow. As far as the World Cup is concerned, there is next to nothing riding on this match. India will top their group even if they lose to Zimbabwe, who are already out of the tournament.
Zimbabwe have not come to India for a bilateral series since 2002, and the big boys oblige them by sending a second-string side every few years to play a few one-dayers. It is only in ICC tournaments that Zimbabwe get the opportunity to face a full-strength India outfit.
They have chased in all their five matches so far, three times by their own choice. The chases have been spirited, but Zimbabwe have one win to show despite coming close a few times. As Brendan Taylor has said, they have played well 80% of the time, but have failed to keep it up in the remaining 20%.
Their opponents were able to move into high gear right at the start of their campaign, and have maintained that tempo since. They have stepped up their game against strong opponents and not let the intensity slip against lesser ones. It has been a near-perfect run for the Indians so far, and six in six before the knockouts is well within their sights.
(last five matches, most recent first)
In the spotlight
Many international careers have ended at World Cups, but none are supposed to do so at 29, an age where a batsmen are around their peak. Brendan Taylor will be taking the field for the 216th and final time for Zimbabwe, against the defending world champions. Taylor has been one of Zimbabwe's finest batsmen and his numerous fighting knocks have shown the pride with which he has represented his country. As he said, it is a "great stage" to finish on Saturday, hopefully with a memorable innings.
India's batsmen reached 300 against the attacks of Pakistan and South Africa on much bigger outfields at the Adelaide Oval and the MCG. Their bowlers have left them chasing low to moderate totals three times after that. Line-ups such as Australia, South Africa and West Indies have plundered massive totals in the tournament. India could join them on the smaller Eden Park if they bat first against Zimbabwe.
Unless they are forced by injury to dip into their bench strength, India have stated they will stick to playing the same XI.
India (probable) 1 Shikhar Dhawan, 2 Rohit Sharma, 3 Virat Kohli, 4 Ajinkya Rahane, 5 Suresh Raina, 6 MS Dhoni (capt & wk), 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 R Ashwin, 9 Mohit Sharma, 10 Mohammed Shami, 11 Umesh Yadav
Elton Chigumbura has been ruled out again with the leg muscle injury he suffered against Pakistan. Zimbabwe have the legspinner Tafadzwa Kamungozi but playing him on a small ground against the Indian batsmen could be a risk.
Zimbabwe (probable) 1 Chamu Chibhabha, 2 Sikandar Raza, 3 Hamilton Masakadza, 4 Brendan Taylor (capt & wk), 5 Sean Williams, 6 Craig Ervine, 7 Solomon Mire, 8 Regis Chakabva, 9 Tinashe Panyangara, 10 Tawanda Mupariwa, 11 Tendai Chatara
Pitch and conditions
Eden Park's kid-size straight boundaries may be rugby's joke on cricket but a look at the scores will tell you there is more to the ground than that. Nineteen wickets fell for 303 runs between Australia and New Zealand, and Pakistan defended 222 against South Africa. It is a quicker surface than Hamilton, the venue of India's previous game, and effort from the fast bowlers is rewarded with bounce. Moderate winds and a high of 25C are expected on match day.
Stats and trivia
- India's highest total in this tournament has been 307. Eleven other teams have surpassed that. Only UAE and Afghanistan have not.
- India and Zimbabwe have met only once in New Zealand, in the 1992 World Cup, in Hamilton
- Brendan Taylor needs 16 runs to overtake Dave Houghton as the second-highest run-getter for Zimbabwe in World Cups. He needs 66 to go past Alistair Campbell and end as the third-highest run-getter for his country overall.
"The new-ball bowlers have struck early, where they possibly haven't done that in the past, and they're bowling with some good pace too. That's certainly good for Indian cricket, and it'll be very challenging for us tomorrow, not just the pace but the swing they're producing at the moment."
Brendan Taylor is impressed by the performance of the India attack
"Since the grounds in Australia are bigger you have more options. You can pitch the ball up and use more variations. In smaller grounds you cannot make mistakes and you cannot give the batsmen chances."
Mohammed Shami on adapting to smaller grounds in New Zealand
Abhishek Purohit is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo