India eye maiden series win in New Zealand
Two-nil down with two to play, New Zealand are in a position where nothing less than a win will do
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Start time 14.00 local (01.00 GMT)
The last time Jesse Ryder played at this ground, he scored an unbeaten 79 from 62 balls. An encore would do just fine for New Zealand
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The Big Picture
Two-nil down with two to play, New Zealand are in a position where nothing less than a win will do. The fourth game offers them a good opportunity to mount a comeback - the Seddon Park in Hamilton is their favourite home venue, Daniel Vettori is back to lead the team and they'll be up against an Indian line-up without Sachin Tendulkar.
To register their first win, though, they will need to do more than just bank on past record. The bowling attack - apart from Vettori - has been a shambles so far, and the short boundaries in Hamilton won't ease their task. What will encourage the home team is the courage they showed when up against a daunting target in Christchurch, where they scored 334 and clearly rattled the Indians despite a middle-order collapse.
India have already ensured they'll get at least a share of the series, but Mahendra Singh Dhoni will want more than that: a win in either of the next two games will give India their first ODI series win in New Zealand. Tendulkar is absent, but the manner in which the entire batting line-up has fired suggests they'll still feel confident of sealing the series in Hamilton.
ODI form guide (last five matches, most recent first)
India - WNWLW
New Zealand - LNLNL
Watch out for ...
Suresh Raina: In five games in New Zealand so far, Raina has scored 178 runs in 112 balls - an average of 89 at an astonishing strike rate of 159. The absence of Tendulkar will probably give him the opportunity to bat up the order as well.
Daniel Vettori: Back after missing the previous game, Vettori's ten overs will be crucial in reining in the Indians. It's a must-win game for New Zealand; expect their captain to rise to the occasion.
The return of Vettori will be a huge relief for New Zealand, whose bowlers were battered all over the park on Sunday. Tim Southee was a victim of that bowling debacle, and has been dropped from the squad. Ian Butler, who is out with a thigh strain, will be missed, though - at an economy rate of 5.85, he has been one of the more stingy bowlers in the series so far. The changes mean New Zealand will try out debutant Ewen Thompson, whose left-arm fast-medium will offer more variety to the beleaguered bowling attack.
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, 10 Kyle Mills, 11 Iain O'Brien.
The abdomen injury to Tendulkar has forced India to change their winning combination. Rohit Sharma is the likely replacement, though Irfan Pathan is an option as well. The other change could be the inclusion of Ishant Sharma, who missed the first three games due to injury but bowled in the nets in Hamilton. If fit, he will come in place of Munaf Patel.
India: 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.
Pitch & conditions
Expect another run-fest. The pitch is likely to be a belter, and with the short boundaries, bowlers will probably feel the heat again. Some rain is forecast in the morning, but that should clear by the time the match begins in the afternoon.
India, on the other hand, have struggled with the solitary win - against Zimbabwe in the 1992 World Cup - in five games. The team batting first hasn't yet won a day-night game at this venue, losing all three. In the last two ODIs under lights, New Zealand chased down 347 against Australia, and scored 165 in 18.1 overs in a ten-wicket win against England. The last time Brendon McCullum and Jesse Ryder opened the batting at this ground, they clobbered 165 at more than nine an over, which is a record opening partnership at Seddon Park.
Of the 13 players from both teams who have batted in the series and faced more than two balls, 12 have a strike rate of more than 100. The only one missing out is Gautam Gambhir.
India have never won an ODI series in New Zealand. The best they've managed are draws in 1993-94 and 1998-99.
"We haven't won the series yet. That's very important in every series we play. We want to win the series so tomorrow's a big game for us."
Gary Kirsten indicates there will be no reduction in intensity from the Indians
"The way we got off to such a great start in the last game put their bowlers under immense amount of pressure. They obviously came back at us but again we managed to put them under pressure at the end as well. They will be a little wary coming here knowing that the wicket's good and the ground's pretty small."
Brendon McCullum suggests another barrage of fours and sixes are in store at Seddon Park
S Rajesh is stats editor of Cricinfo