The third T20I between New Zealand and India will be their last game in the format this year, and they would want to head into 2023 with more answers than questions.
New Zealand's inability to gain any momentum with the bat chasing 192
on Sunday further highlighted their lack of assertiveness in the powerplay. In their last five T20Is, they have scored 40 or fewer four times in the period, and have hit only two sixes - both by Finn Allen
- despite losing more than two wickets only once.
In the bowling department, Trent Boult
is out of the picture for the moment, and no more a certain starter. And even when he did play in four of New Zealand's last five games, they went wicketless in the powerplay thrice. Tim Southee
, stand-in captain for Napier
, is just days short of turning 34, with the next T20 World Cup one-and-a-half years away. It is probably the best time to look ahead for New Zealand if things don't start going their way soon.
India, too, needed a fresh approach with their top-order batting
after the semi-final exit at the T20 World Cup, but they couldn't achieve it in the second T20I. Hopes were pinned on the opening pair of Rishabh Pant
and Ishan Kishan
to get them off to a big start, but Pant struggled to 6 off 13 balls while Kishan took 31 deliveries for 36, despite 26 of those coming in boundaries.
India came into this series happy to experiment with their batting, rejigging their line-up to accommodate those on the fringes. But as has been the story in the recent past, only Suryakumar Yadav really played his part
- and how! - with a blazing century.
This was a series with comparatively lesser pressure than at a World Cup, and with one more game to go, India would hope the young players take away at least some of the burden from the shoulders of the management, and Suryakumar. After all, no one knows who the next set of selectors will be, and what their plans are going to be.
New Zealand LLWLW (Last five completed matches; most recent first)
's last five scores in T20Is read 0, 16*, 0, 6 and 5. The fact that he has batted at No. 6 and comes in with little time means he has often had to go slam-bang from ball one. That makes his job tough, sure, but it's what he has to do, and hasn't been able to. Like Boult, he has opted out of a central contract too, and might need to do something big to stay in contention.
Across 20 innings this year, India have tried Rishabh Pant
four times as opener, where he sparkled briefly only twice. Two of those four innings came with India testing him at the top, including in Mount Maunganui. If India feel his best place in the XI is as opener, he now has Kishan to compete with. Nevertheless, once Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul and Virat Kohli return, the question will still stand even if Pant goes big in Napier: what do India do with him
New Zealand can at best level the series, something they will have to attempt without Williamson. Southee is set to lead, with Mark Chapman
likely to find a slot in the side.
New Zealand (probable): 1 Finn Allen, 2 Devon Conway (wk), 3 Mark Chapman, 4 Glenn Phillips, 5 Daryl Mitchell, 6 James Neesham, 7 Mitchell Santner, 8 Tim Southee (capt), 9 Ish Sodhi, 10 Adam Milne, 11 Lockie Ferguson
India might not want to tinker with their XI even if that would mean multiple players don't get a chance in the T20Is. If that does happen, Shubman Gill will have to continue to wait for his debut in the format, and Sanju Samson
for his next opportunity with the national side, despite scoring 2*, 30* and 86* in his last three innings for India, though in ODIs.
India (probable): 1 Ishan Kishan, 2 Rishabh Pant (wk), 3 Suryakumar Yadav, 4 Shreyas Iyer, 5 Deepak Hooda, 6 Hardik Pandya (capt), 7 Washington Sundar, 8 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 9 Arshdeep Singh, 10 Mohammed Siraj, 11 Yuzvendra Chahal
The match starts at 7.30pm local time, and it is expected to be pleasant and cloudy in Napier in the evening, with some rain around. The last T20I at McLean Park was washed out, and scores batting first have functuated in the four completed games. The highest of those was England's 241 in 2019
"Everyone watched some of his shots in amazement. We have had a few discussions already, and will have some more tomorrow morning before the game around how we can combat him."
No prizes for guessing that Gary Stead, New Zealand's coach, is talking about Suryakumar's 111*