New Zealand has given itself a chance to bring down India in its own backyard in an ODI series and emulate a feat achieved by A. B. de Villiers’ South Africa two years ago.
Quinton de Kock, Faf du Plessis and skipper de Villiers bludgeoned the Indian attack then to score a century each as South Africa posted a formidable 438 to win the fifth match by 214 runs at the Wankhede Stadium and the series 3-2.
Kane Williamson’s team is only playing a short three-match series and having taken the lead, outplaying India by six wickets in the first game at the same venue, it has positioned itself to clinch the series at the Gahunje village venue here.
But India has lost just four series out of 20 it has played at home in the last ten years and with a number of tremendously gifted players in its ranks, the home team has the weapons to hit back and draw level.
Bowling coach Bharat Arun said they have seen the videos of the first match and have worked out a different plan for Ross Taylor and Tom Latham, who took the match away from India. Two matches have been played here with Australia winning the first by 72 runs and India the second against England 350 in mid-January last.
After its splendid win in Mumbai, the focus though right now is around New Zealand, which lost the last year’s series 2-3 and appears to be keen to better that score line in the short series. Its ambitions was reflected in the past master in Taylor and a rising star, left-hander, Latham, getting their together to turn the first match on its head three days ago. The expert hands of Taylor steadied that ship that was rocked by the departure of Williamson, but it was Latham who made some telling cross-bat blows and caused a significant impact by scoring his first century on Indian soil.
The Indians may consider themselves a trifle unlucky that they did not get a breakthrough after seamers Hardik Pandya, Jasprit Bumrah and spinner Yadav removed the top order and the New Zealand captain and had probably sniffed victory to take the lead.
The openers Martin Guptill and Colin Munro searched for answers against turn and it appeared that Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal would get into the act, but in the course 31.5 overs, the right-handed Taylor demonstrated his soft-hand skills and the southpaw, Latham, showed extraordinary ability to employ a variety of sweep shots to rotate the strike.
The Indian team had a work out under a hot sun at the match venue, bit with its seamers given a rest and captain Virat Kohli staying away. The team has a third spinner in left-arm slow Axar Patel, and it is not known if he would come in at the expense of one of the wrist spinners.
“Well, these two boys (Chahal and Yadav) have done exceptionally well and we would like to take a good look at them before we come up on a combination for the World Cup. So, so far they have shaped exceptionally well. If you look at the overall percentages, we are happy with the way they have shaped up, so one odd match shouldn’t trouble us,’’ said bowling coach Bharat Arun.
Talking about the match here, Arun said: “We look at it as a big challenge right now. New Zealand competes exceptionally well; they had a fantastic partnership and they went on to win that game. It is a bigger challenge for us to come back; we know we have our plans in place and it is good testing ground for the team as to how it can come back from behind and do well in the series”
The teams (from)
India : Virat Kohli (Captain), Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Kedar Jadhav, Dinesh Karthik, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Hardik Pandya, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Axar Patel, Ajinkya Rahane, Manish Pandey,Shardul Thakur.
New Zealand: Kane Williamson (Captain) Martin Guptill, Colin Munro, Ross Taylor, Tom Latham, Henry Nicholls, Trent Boult, Colin de Grandhomme, Matt Henry, Adam Milne, Mitchell Santner, Tim Southee, Glenn Phillips, Ish Sodhi, George Worker.