New Zealand under pressure to avoid clean sweep
Match factsSaturday, March 14, 2009
Start time 14.00 local (01.00 GMT)
The Big PictureThe euphoria for New Zealand after the two Twenty20 victories has been swiftly put to rest by the sparkling performances of India's batsmen in the four ODIs so far. The pre-tour talk centred around how the Indians will be challenged in conditions alien to them, but the only time they have been stretched so far was in the Twenty20 games. New Zealand's bowlers have struggled to find the right lengths to contain India's intimidating top order, let alone pick wickets. The quality of the pitches and sizes of the grounds have also played into India's hands and that has deprived the series of any kind of competition.
Curiously enough, even in victory, India have a few selection headaches. Should they retain the XI or give the seniors a break? India were in a similar situation in Sri Lanka recently when, after winning the first four games, they fielded a weaker side for the fifth and missed out on sweeping the series. They may also want to shuffle the batting order a bit to give an opportunity to batsmen who haven't had much to so far.
For New Zealand, their sole focus will be to snatch a win and get some momentum before the Test series begins. Jesse Ryder and Brendon McCullum have stepped up at the top of the order, but the middle order is yet to live up to its potential. The blame doesn't rest on the bowlers alone. New Zealand need to summon their pride collectively and set up the Test series with a consolation win tomorrow.
ODI form guide(last five matches, most recent first)
India - WWNWL
New Zealand - LLNLN
Watch out for ...Ross Taylor: For all his talents, Ross Taylor has had a very quiet series, scoring only 31 runs in four games. Jacob Oram's struggles after returning from injury has only increased the pressure on Taylor, who needs to capitalise tomorrow and regain his touch.
Yusuf Pathan: The unshakeable top order hasn't given Yusuf much of a chance to bludgeon the ball around in the small grounds. He has also been under utilised as a bowler, delivering less than ten overs in all in three outings. If India re-jig their batting order, Yusuf may well earn a promotion.
Team newsIndia didn't reveal any team changes with certainty. The coach Gary Kirsten said the team had discussed resting a few players, but a final decision will be taken on the day of the match. He also struck a cautious note on Sachin Tendulkar's return from a groin injury after missing the Hamilton match. Dinesh Karthik, Pragyan Ojha and Irfan Pathan are yet to get a game, and could get a look-in.
"We would be tempted [to make changes] but we also want to make sure we keep the momentum going," Kirsten said. "I think it's important on a tour to set yourself up to win games of cricket on a consistent level, and momentum is very important on a tour, so we haven't made a decision. We have spoken about a little bit.
"As I said, it's important to maintain momentum and win games of cricket. That might require us to use our best combination. We also need to be mindful of the fact that it might be an opportunity to rest one or two players."
India (likely): 1 Virender Sehwag, 2 Gautam Gambhir, 3 Suresh Raina, 4 Yuvraj Singh, 5 Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt & wk), 6 Rohit Sharma, 7 Yusuf Pathan, 8 Praveen Kumar, 9 Harbhajan Singh, 10 Ishant Sharma, 11 Zaheer Khan.
New Zealand have brought in Scott Styris as cover for Ewen Thompson, who bruised his left thumb at practice. Thompson will be assessed again in the morning before a final decision is be taken.
New Zealand (likely) 1 Jesse Ryder, 2 Brendon McCullum, 3 Martin Guptill, 4 Ross Taylor, 5 Jacob Oram, 6 Peter McGlashan (wk), 7 Grant Elliott, 8 Daniel Vettori (capt), 9 Ewen Thompson/Scott Styris, 10 Kyle Mills, 11 Iain O'Brien.
Pitch & conditionsAnother small ground greets the visitors and if the pitch is flat, it should be another run-fest. The weather has been unpredictable over the last two days, with sunshine followed by a spell of rain in very frequent intervals.
Stats and trivia
- New Zealand have won 27 ODIs and lost 29 in Auckland. Since 2005, they've won only two - including one against Bangladesh - and lost five. In day-night games here, their record is even worse - two wins and 11 losses. Their last win was against India in 2002. Since then they've lost to India, South Africa, Australia, West Indies, Sri Lanka and England.
- India have a 3-3 win-loss record at Eden Park. Two of those wins came on their last two tours.
- Batting second has traditionally been an advantage in day-night games here. Teams chasing have won eight out of 13 completed matches.
- Tendulkar will have fond memories of Eden Park, where he opened in an ODI for the first time and smashed 82 off 49 balls.
Quotes"This game is a momentum game for us. We don't want to go down 4-0. We want to win a game, we want to give our one-day team the credibility it deserves because we have played well for a while now. But in this series we haven't shown that, and we need to, come tomorrow."
Daniel Vettori wants his team to regain lost pride
"It's been incredible. I have had 14 months with the team and we have won six series in a row now. I am very excited about that in terms of what we have been able to achieve and I think this team can only get better. We are going to come unstuck every now and again, we're going to make mistakes. We showed that in the two Twenty20 games where we made a few mental errors and it cost us."
Gary Kirsten savours his team's golden run
Kanishkaa Balachandran is a sub-editor at Cricinfo