New Zealand target rare series win in India
Apart from a one-off T20I in 2012, the visitors have not won a bilateral series of any format in India
Big picture: Santner and Hardik impressIndia and New Zealand have travelled the length and breadth of the country for six games in 14 days and we are finally at the end, with the T20I series tied at 1-1. It's time for one last push, and then please remember to put those tray tables in the upright and locked position.
Winning a series here is hard work for a visiting team. India have protected their stronghold with ridiculous consistency. Over the last 10 years they have played a total of 55 bilateral series, across formats, and won 47 of them. Only Australia in 2019 and South Africa in 2015 have beaten India in India.
Mitchell Santner has stressed this point in press conferences; that apart from the learnings New Zealand can take about conditions they will face during the ODI World Cup in October, there is still the chance to go down in history as a team that beat India in India.
Both captains have actually been big gains for their sides. Santner has already shown the poise under pressure that he set out to have, and he seems to be an out-of-the-box thinker too. Dude asked Lockie Ferguson if he'd bowl offspin to make the most of a rank turner in Lucknow.
Hardik Pandya, meanwhile, has been an upfront and honest presence, even in front of the camera, which has been great (though not for everybody). Except, is that even a surprise? Guy publicly said he wouldn't have minded losing to Pakistan in that epic T20 World Cup match because it was an epic T20 World Cup match. He's well liked in the team. He throws his entire weight behind his players. And he has no fear of failure. The specifics of this series may easily fade from memory but the two captains might just go on to etch their names in history.
Form guideIndia WLWLW (Last five completed T20Is, most recent first)
New Zealand LWTLL
In the spotlight: Kishan and SodhiIshan Kishan scored 210 in one innings in December. In the next eight, he's scored less than half that. This India team insists on giving its incumbents a long rope. Plus Kishan doubles up as the their wicketkeeper and presents a hard-hitting left-hand option at the top of the order. These are pluses everybody looks for in the modern game. So his place is probably safe, but still, wouldn't he love a match-defining innings in a series decider…
In a New Zealand bowling attack that values discipline and works towards minimising the margin for error, Ish Sodhi is a total wildcard. He's the kind of spinner who gets bored by even the idea of stringing six balls on the same spot, which is probably why he finds himself on the outs in Test cricket. But what hurts him in whites is what defines him in coloured clothing. Sodhi is the second-highest wicket-taker in T20Is over the past two years.
Team news: Malik in for Chahal?Ahmedabad may not want to do what Lucknow did - its already been in the eye of a storm before - in which case India might be tempted to bring back Umran Malik in place of Yuzvendra Chahal.
India (probable): 1 Shubman Gill, 2 Ishan Kishan (wk), 3 Rahul Tripathi, 4 Suryakumar Yadav, 5 Hardik Pandya (capt), 6 Deepak Hooda, 7 Washington Sundar, 8 Shivam Mavi, 9 Kuldeep Yadav, 10 Umran Malik, 11 Arshdeep Singh
Barring injury and other circumstances, it's unlikely that New Zealand will want to make a lot of changes.
New Zealand (probable): 1 Finn Allen, 2 Devon Conway (wk), 3 Mark Chapman, 4 Glenn Phillips, 5 Daryl Mitchell, 6 Michael Bracewell, 7 Mitchell Santner (capt), 8 Ish Sodhi, 9 Lockie Ferguson, 10 Jacob Duffy, 11 Blair Tickner
Pitch and conditions: The return of the belter?The Narendra Modi stadium in Ahmedabad has typically been a high-scoring venue for T20Is, with three of its last five games producing totals in excess of 160 in both innings, including a 224 for 2. The weather is set fair.
Stats and trivia
- Apart from a T20I series in 2012, which ended up being a one-match affair, New Zealand have never won a bilateral series in any format in India.
- Kishan's 19 off 38 in the last game is the third-slowest innings of 30 or more balls by an opener from a Full Member country in T20Is. There were, of course, mitigating circumstances.
- There are 44 players with a batting average above 40 and a strike rate above 130 in T20Is. Two of the top three have been on show in this series: Suryakumar Yadav (47.17 and 175.63) and Devon Conway (47.42 and 130.47)
Alagappan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo