Big picture

New Zealand are 1-0 up in the series, their standard ODI template just about working out. Martin Guptill, Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor and Tom Latham are a reliable batting core in one-day cricket. But everything starts to wobble after that. The Black Caps, from No. 5 on, have been averaging a collective 22.5 over the last four years. Among the top teams, only Sri Lanka do worse (20.48).

It is rather similar in the bowling as well - without Trent Boult, Lockie Ferguson and Matt Henry (all injured), they gave up 347 runs in their last ODI. New Zealand have a world-class plan A in both departments, but their failsafes need work, perhaps even replenishing. It is time to look at new players - batsmen especially - and while there appears to be one on the horizon - Devon Conway basically walks into a cricket ground, trips and lands on a hundred - they need more players capable of absorbing and dominating top-class bowling.

Like India now have. Shreyas Iyer should have been part of their plans sooner, but since being given a consistent run, he has sealed the No. 4 spot. KL Rahul has gone from an extremely talented benchwarmer to a first-choice pick who can bat at any position. Even Shardul Thakur, who has blown lukewarm and ice-cold all tour, seems to have the higher-ups' favour probably because this team doesn't just want to be the best now, it wants to stay there for years to come, and for that to happen, an influx of new talent is crucial.

Still, New Zealand arrive at Eden Park with the upper hand. They know a win there will secure the series. And for that, an encore of plan A might just be enough.

Form guide

New Zealand WTWLL (last five completed matches, most recent first)
India LWWLW

In the spotlight

Tom Blundell took over the No. 3 spot in the first ODI and, for the duration of a glorious cover drive, he looked very Williamson-lite. Problem is when he tried to go for it again, he misjudged the flight of a Kuldeep Yadav delivery and was out stumped. Those kinds of things happen when chasing a target as big as 348, so he will look to Saturday to put in a better shift. The 29-year-old is a compact player and it probably doesn't hurt that he has plenty of sweep shots in his locker. (Here's why)

Prithvi Shaw's first ODI was significantly less fun than his first Test but it shouldn't take too long for a man who has built his game on stand-and-deliver shots - drives on the up, cuts with pure abandon, back-foot punches that merit holding of the pose - to succeed in limited-overs cricket.

Team news

Ish Sodhi has been released to join the A team. Among the reserves, fast bowler Kyle Jamieson has done enough good things to make his ODI debut tomorrow, while Scott Kuggeleijn, who has been hit with the flu, is looking less certain to break into the XI.

New Zealand (likely): 1 Martin Guptill, 2 Henry Nicholls, 3 Tom Blundell, 4 Ross Taylor, 5 Tom Latham (capt, wk), 6 Colin de Grandhomme, 7 Jimmy Neesham, 8 Mitchell Santner, 9 Kyle Jamieson, 10 Scott Kuggeleijn/Hamish Bennett, 11 Tim Southee

India might once again be faced with the Thakur v Navdeep Saini question, especially given this is a must-win game. For the same reason, Yuzvendra Chahal might look the more attractive option after Yadav leaked runs in Hamilton.

India (likely): 1 Mayank Agarwal, 2 Prithvi Shaw, 3 Virat Kohli (capt), 4 Shreyas Iyer, 5 KL Rahul (wk), 6 Manish Pandey, 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 Navdeep Saini/Shardul Thakur, 9 Yuzvendra Chahal/Kuldeep Yadav, 10 Mohammed Shami, 11 Jasprit Bumrah

Pitch and conditions

Somewhere in a posh hotel in Auckland, Virat Kohli and Martin Guptill and KL Rahul and Ross Taylor are waking up with smiles so wide it can mean only one thing. Mis…Hit… Sixes.

Tim Southee, Shardul Thakur, Mitchell Santner and Kuldeep Yadav are also waking up but look so gloriously resigned that it can only mean one thing. Mis…Hit… Sixes.

Those tiny boundaries, man. They skew nearly every contest that takes place - but the thing is, they almost always end up compelling. So at a time when cricket is willing to go any length - four-day Test pun ftw - to win over audiences, maybe the odd mis-hit six-fest is worth the trouble.

PS - weather's set fair enough.

Stats and trivia

  • Here's a gut-punch to generalisations about Eden Park: over the last five day-night ODIs there, the average first-innings total is only 258

  • Rahul has played two innings at No. 5, making 168 runs in 116 balls at a strike rate of 144.82. Small though the sample size is, he's shaping to be the India's best option for the position.
  • Quotes

    He's very versatile, someone who can adapt to conditions, game scenarios and we saw that last night. Even the way he started, they brought Bumrah back, trying to build some pressure. I think he was 2 off 10 or whatever it was but then to be able to put that pressure back on Kuldeep and the other spinners, it was a great knock.
    Henry Nicholls on his current captain and long-time car-pool buddy Tom Latham

    It's just a loss and we have faced that before as well in our life. It's not that we are facing it for the first time. So everybody is in their normal zone and it's not something that hasn't happened before. We've got that confidence in our team and in ourselves that we are going to bounce back strong.
    Shreyas Iyer is plenty confident ahead of a must-win game

    Alagappan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo