Very quietly, India vs New Zealand has become a classic little rivalry. It fits the biggest stages and produces some heart-stopping moments. Martin Guptill's throw to run MS Dhoni out. Ross Taylor's pull to seal the title. Rohit Sharma producing the best batting ever seen in a Super Over. Having bubbled away for a while - especially this year when two of their last three T20Is have ended up as ties - this is where it's all going to blow up.
Both teams come into this game knowing they haven't been good enough. However, those early losses will also have provided valuable lessons. Virat Kohli and Kane Williamson will now know what to guard against to ensure the best chance of victory. For India, that's making sure they don't lose early wickets. It's no easy task when Trent Boult is among the opposition, but, surviving the powerplay with minimal losses usually means they are set up to do maximum damage later on.
New Zealand's focus will be on the other end of the innings. The experiments with their batting order - Daryl Mitchell as opener, James Neesham at No. 4 - didn't take against Pakistan and while that was another sign of their willingness to drop pre-set plans and do what the conditions dictate to win a match - it robbed them of a bit of stability. They did not have a recognised finisher at the crease when the death overs came around and they paid the price for it.
Form guide(Last five completed matches, most recent first)
New Zealand: LWLWL
New Zealand: LWLWL
In the spotlight
Hardik Pandya has started bowling in the nets again. And while it was only a 20-minute session, it has the potential to be game-changing for India's prospects at this World Cup. Having their star allrounder back means they have more options, which in turn allows the captain to ration overs from his best bowlers better. Jasprit Bumrah, for example, can be used exclusively at the death. Varun Chakravarthy can bowl his mystery spin in the powerplay. The entire bowling plan changes if Hardik is in the mix.
Devon Conway has enjoyed a stellar start to his career. He uprooted his life in South Africa and bet it all on New Zealand and the upshot of that was a world title within his first year of international cricket. He's now on the hunt for another, and his ability to cope with most kinds of bowling mark him out as a key figure in this batting line-up.
India tend not to be a team that makes too many changes, but they may yet be tempted to include Shardul Thakur, who has been in electric form ever since the tour of England, in place of Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who has been off-colour.
India (probable): 1 Rohit Sharma, 2 KL Rahul, 3 Virat Kohli (capt), 4 Suryakumar Yadav, 5 Rishabh Pant (wk), 6 Hardik Pandya, 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 Shardul Thakur/Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 9 Mohammed Shami, 10 Varun Chakravarthy, 11 Jasprit Bumrah
Martin Guptill did not field in New Zealand's last game after sustaining a blow to his left toe, but he has turned up well in training and is expected to make the XI. Adam Milne, who is now available for selection, may be a contender to take Tim Southee's spot in the XI
New Zealand (probable): 1 Martin Guptill, 2 Daryl Mitchell, 3 Kane Williamson (capt), 4 Devon Conway, 5 Glenn Phillips, 6 James Neesham, 7 Tim Seifert (wk), 8 Mitchell Santner, 9 Tim Southee/Adam Milne, 10 Ish Sodhi, 11 Trent Boult
Pitch and conditions
Teams batting second have won 14 of the 18 T20s played in Dubai this year. So don't be surprised if the captain winning the toss tomorrow immediately opts to bowl.
Stats and trivia
- Rohit Sharma has been dismissed thrice each by Trent Boult, Tim Southee and Mitchell Santner in T20s.
- Mohammed Shami has dismissed Kane Williamson four times in T20s, giving away 49 runs in 37 balls.
- Until 2016, New Zealand had never lost a T20I to India. Since then, they've lost 8 of 11.
Alagappan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo