India finally managed to defeat New Zealand in T20 cricket for the first time in their history and are now favorites to win this T20 series. New Zealand will have to do what India did in the ODI series by losing the first match and then winning the next two to leave this tour with something to show for it.
The ODI series between the two sides was very keenly contested and we expect New Zealand’s disastrous performance in the first T20 to be a one-off.
There is nothing that really seems wrong with the Indian cricket team when their top-3 batsmen fire. Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, and Virat Kohli all played very important knocks in the opening match eventually leading India to a total that was at least 30 runs above the par score.
In this euphoria, though, potential punters must not forget that all the batsmen were reprieved off very simple catches. India could have very easily been three down for not too many had New Zealand fielding like they almost always do.
Kohli chose a unique team combination with Shreyas Iyer getting a game and six regular bowlers in the eleven (counting Hardik Pandya).
In essence, India had only 4 regular batsmen with MS Dhoni and Hardik Pandya as the all-rounders. This is a very risky strategy that could have backfired quite easily.
Kohli has stated his desire to play with one lesser batsman in the T20 format of the game, a move that is counter-intuitive to what most people try, and something that could be brilliant if it works out. If India goes with the same combination for the next T20 by just swapping out Kuldeep Yadav for Ashish Nehra then we would be quite surprised.
We think that Ashish Nehra will make way for an additional batsman, maybe Dinesh Karthik, to be slotted in with Pandya playing the role of the fifth bowler.
All systems seem to be firing for India at the moment and with their batsmen in-form will be a very tough side to beat in home conditions.
It would be fair to say that New Zealand was routed in the first T20 game. They never really entered the contest and kept dropping catches when it looked like that something was about to change. For a team that prides itself on its fielding, putting in their worst performance on the tour is going to give them a serious jolt.
The problems for New Zealand were not just limited to their fielding, though. Their bowling seemed incapable of stopping the Indian batsmen and it was only due to the efforts of the spinners that they kept the score down to 200.
Can Ish Sodhi and Mitchell Santner be as effective in Rajkot as they were in Delhi? We doubt it.
The conditions at Rajkot are almost unfairly skewed towards the batsmen and every bowler will have a tougher time than they did in Delhi.
Also worrying New Zealand will be the form of their fast bowlers. Trent Boult went for the most runs he has ever gone in his T20 international career, Tim Southee gave away runs at 11.00 runs per over, and de Grandhomme seemed to be the perfect pace for the Indians to get after.
Colin Munro also found the going hard and was unable to pitch in with a few useful overs.
Now, the batting. New Zealand was up against a big score but never really got their chase underway in earnest. Martin Guptill fell to a brilliant catch, Munro was undone by a fantastic Yorker, but the rest showed little to no intent.
Tom Latham top scored with 39 at a strike rate of 108.33, Kane Williamson scored 28 at 116.66, and Tom Bruce struggled to get the ball off the square.
We think Colin de Grandhomme is playing too far down the order to make an impact and see him being promoted up to do some carnage.
This New Zealand team has not transformed into a bad team overnight but had one of their worst games in recent memory. We think they will come out swinging and hard at India in the next match.
PITCH AND CONDITIONS
The conditions at Rajkot will be hot, clear, with no chance of rain interrupting the match. The pitch is expected to be an absolute belter and a score of around 185 should be considered par.
There has been only one T20 played at Rajkot up until now where over 400 runs were scored for the loss of just 11 wickets. Australia batted first and scored 201 which India chased down with the loss of only four wickets.
This game will be an all-out slugfest.
We think this match will be much closer than the previous ones but having lost its last three matches on this tour, it looks difficult for New Zealand to make a comeback.
Newzealand to win.