World Cup 2019, India vs New Zealand: Men in Blue gear up for Kiwi test amid rain threat

The forecast hints at a few showers during Thursday’s World Cup match featuring Virat Kohli’s men and New Zealand.

Virat Kohli’s men are on a roll, dishing out intense cricket on the field, and off it too.   -  Getty Images

The centre-square here at Trent Bridge, was layered with multiple sheets on Wednesday. The ground staff scurried around, extending the covers, keeping an eye on the feathery rain that oscillated between persistence and the long pause. During one such break, the Indian team trained, not full-tilt but a gingerly trot.

The forecast hints at a few showers during Thursday’s World Cup match featuring Virat Kohli’s men and New Zealand. Ambiguity is linked only to the weather while thankfully the other realm of confusion centred around Shikhar Dhawan, was effectively dismantled. Batting coach Sanjay Bangar said that a final decision on Dhawan’s availability would be taken only after 12 days and that rules out the injured opener with a bruised left-thumb, from India’s next set of four games.

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The team-management is hoping that the southpaw would be fit in time for the big clash against England on June 30th. As a consequence, K.L. Rahul will pair up with Rohit Sharma atop the order and in the middle, either Dinesh Karthik or Vijay Shankar would step in. Both had a long strike at the nets, only against throw-downs as the outfield was deemed too soft for the regular bowlers to pound their feet.

Except for the bad news about Dhawan, India is in good shape, having won against South Africa and Australia. Most of its cogs moved in unison and with the skies remaining damp, it remains to be seen if Kohli would prefer speedster Mohammed Shami over spinner Kuldeep Yadav.

Shikhar Dhawan

India opener Shikhar Dhawan watched the Indian team go through their practice drills at Trent Bridge.   -  AP

 

The venue is Stuart Broad’s home ground and is known for a fair bit of bounce though in recent times, especially in ODIs, the turf has gifted a bounty of runs and last June, England scored 481 for six against Australia.

Read: Rishabh Pant comes in as cover for injured Shikhar Dhawan

India will be wary of New Zealand and Kane Williamson’s men are known to punch above their weight in ICC tournaments. The Kiwis step in after three easy wins registered against Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.

Its fast bowlers, especially Lockie Ferguson and James Neesham, have been among the wickets and more importantly, in the warm-up joust against India at the Oval on May 25, Williamson’s men rode on the exploits of seamers Trent Boult and Neesham to skittle out the Men in Blue for 179. New Zealand won the game by six wickets.

It would be a bit extreme to invest meaning into a practice skirmish which largely served as an exploratory exercise for teams to finalise their playing elevens but New Zealand would still derive some confidence. Its batsmen, notably Williamson, Ross Taylor and Martin Guptill, have been among the runs but what could stymie the outfit is that the opposition it quelled in three games, have been middling at best.

Also read: Rahul moves to the top in Dhawan's absence, confirms Bangar

India would be its first big test and Kohli’s men are on a roll, dishing out intense cricket on the field and off it, finding time to unwind and they even caught Salman Khan’s Bharat at a nearby multiplex.

It is time for the action to unfold provided the inter-play of dark clouds subsides enough for a reticent sun to peep out.

The teams (from):

India: Virat Kohli (captain), Rohit Sharma, M.S. Dhoni, K.L. Rahul, Ravindra Jadeja, Kedar Jadhav, Dinesh Karthik, Hardik Pandya, Vijay Shankar, Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav and Shikhar Dhawan.

New Zealand: Kane Williamson (captain), Ross Taylor, Martin Guptill, Colin de Grandhomme, Lockie Ferguson, Matt Henry, Tom Latham, Colin Munro, Jimmy Neesham, Tom Blundell, Trent Boult, Tim Southee,  Henry Nicholls, Mitchell Santner and Ish Sodhi.

Umpires: Marais Erasmus and Paul Reiffel; Third umpire: Bruce Oxenford; Match referee: Ranjan Madugalle.

Match starts at 3 p.m. IST.