New Zealand aim to complete hat-trick
Match factsSaturday, January 25, 2014
Start time 1400 local (0100 GMT)
Big PictureThe last time New Zealand won three ODIs in a row - against teams other than Zimbabwe and Associates - was in early 2010 when they put together a string of two wins against Pakistan, three against Bangladesh and one against Australia. Since then, consistency has been a problem with them. Right now is as good a chance as any for them to get that consistency and ruthlessness back into their game. They have the motivation: they are playing against what started as the No. 1 side in the world, a side most watched in the world, and in the World Cup year. More than the motivation, though, a really good unit is coming together for them: they have a good mix of solid and attacking specialist batsmen, an explosive allrounder, bowlers who like to attack and win games, and fielders who add 20 to any total they post.
Only two times in the history of ODI cricket has a team gone down 2-0 in a five-match series and has still managed to win it. South Africa did it against Pakistan in 2003, and Bangladesh against Zimbabwe in 2005. Forget that India might regain the No. 1 ranking momentarily if England beat Australia in Perth, in a relatively longer term, they will need to become the third team to script such an incredible turnaround. To do that there are issues they need to address: one of their specialist batsmen has not scored a fifty against a full-time team in his last 23 innings, one of their bowlers is defying gravity by not getting dropped, and their spinners have become ineffective because of the new field restrictions.
It is immense credit to the batting of Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni that India came close in both the first two ODIs. That is why New Zealand know they can't take this visiting team lightly. They will be desperate to finish their hat-trick of wins lest India draw blood and start looking for that hat-trick of their own.
Form guideNew Zealand WWLWW (last five completed matches, most recent first)
In the spotlightRohit Sharma has faced 1025 deliveries in the first 10 overs of ODIs. Of those, 718 have gone been dots. He hasn't even been hitting many boundaries at the start. Shikhar Dhawan faces 60% dots as compared to Rohit's 70, but he manages the boundaries, which shows in his run-rate of 5.76 in the first 10 overs as opposed to Rohit's 3.67. So on an average, when Rohit bats 10 overs - and he tends to face 35 of the 60 balls - there are close to four overs unscored of. Granted it takes all sorts and Rohit is more than capable of making up for slow starts, but when your bowlers are conceding 300 in every game you put too much pressure on yourself with starts lacking urgency so often. It will be interesting to see if he changes his strategy a little without entirely losing the solid bases.
Jesse Ryder has looked in golden touch during the first two ODIs, but hasn't stayed on long enough. In the first ODI he flicked a delightful six in the first over, in the second he beautifully drove the first ball he faced for four. He has gone at a good strike rate without slogging, nor has he got out playing outrageous shots, which means a long innings cannot be counted out. India are looking for ways to keep Corey Anderson quiet, but they will have a whole new set of problems if Ryder manages to stay on the wicket for 30 overs.
Teams newsEden Park is a quicker pitch than Seddon Park, so New Zealand will think of playing the quicker Hamish Bennett ahead of the wily Kyle Mills whose cutters are more effective on slightly slower surfaces. They are not yet likely to rest the "fatigued" Corey Anderson.
New Zealand 1 Martin Guptill, 2 Jesse Ryder, 3 Kane Williamson, 4 Ross Taylor, 5 Brendon McCullum (capt.), 6 Corey Anderson, 7 Luke Ronchi (wk), 8 Nathan McCullum, 9. Kyle Mills/Hamish Bennett, 10 Tim Southee, 11 Mitchell McClenaghan
Suresh Raina took a blow on the left elbow in the nets on the eve of the match, and has a sustained a soft-tissue damage. If he doesn't turn up fine on the afternoon of the match, Ambati Rayudu or Stuart Binny might get a look-in. Ishant Sharma will be under pressure again. Varun Aaron bowled a long spell in the nets so he might be in with a chance.
India 1 Rohit Sharma, 2 Shikhar Dhawan, 3 Virat Kohli, 4 Ajinkya Rahane, 5 MS Dhoni (capt & wk), 6 Suresh Raina/Ambati Rayudu/Stuart Binny, 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 R Ashwin, 9 Ishant Sharma/Varun Aaron, 10 Mohammed Shami, 11 Bhuvneshwar Kumar
Pitch and conditionsA beautiful sunny day is forecast in Auckland. The oddly shaped ground will be a challenge to defend, but New Zealand won't mind that the square boundary is longer than the straight one.
Stats and trivia
- R Ashwin and Ishant Sharma have played 72 ODIs each. Only Ajit Agarakar and Tim Bresnan are ahead of them on list of most runs conceded after 72 ODIs.
- Rohit Sharma hit 20 sixes in the last three innings of the series against Australia. Since then his six off Kyle Mills in Hamilton was his first in six ODIs.
- MS Dhoni is 130 short of reaching 8000 ODI runs. He has played 211 innings so far. Brian Lara, the third-quickest to the landmark, reached 8000 in 211 innings; he is also the fastest non-opener to the mark.
Quotes"They will also have to take a call on Ishant Sharma, who unfortunately is either unwilling to learn or is incapable of it."
Former India captain Sunil Gavaskar lays into Ishant Sharma
"I don't think we have bowled particularly well to him when he's first come out and it has almost allowed him to get in and get going. Once he does that he's shown he's pretty hard to stop. He is in great nick and our job is to get him as early as possible."
Tim Southee wants Virat Kohli early
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo