Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 February 2020

NZ v India T20: Navdeep Saini in with a chance as visitors aim to win series in Hamilton

Virat Kohli's team look to take unassailable 3-0 lead in five-match clash

India's Navdeep Saini, centre, could replace Shardul Thakur, right, in the playing XI for the third T20 against New Zealand. AFP
India's Navdeep Saini, centre, could replace Shardul Thakur, right, in the playing XI for the third T20 against New Zealand. AFP

Anything can happen in T20 cricket. That’s what they say but given the way India have risen to every challenge in the New Zealand T20 series so far, a decisive victory for Virat Kohli’s team in the third T20 in Hamilton on Wednesday is very much on the cards.

The first match of the series was a high-scoring affair at Eden Park in Auckland where India chased down 204 with an over to spare. Two days later at the same ground, New Zealand huffed and puffed their way to 132-5 on a sluggish pitch and it ended in an even more comfortable win and a 2-0 lead for the men in blue.

India went in with the same playing XI in the first two games and conventional wisdom states you don’t change a winning combination. But the five-match series is a great platform for the Indians to test their options ahead of the T20 World Cup later in the year Down Under.

The batting department – powered by KL Rahul – is firing on all cylinders with the momentary dip in form of Rohit Sharma the only matter of discomfort. Pacers Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami, along with spinning all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja, have looked incisive, making the job of Kohli that much easier.

The only position in India’s playing XI that will be up for debate is that of pacer Shardul Thakur. The seamer has proven to be expensive more often than not in white-ball matches but his hitting abilities lower down the order have made him an enticing option. Purely from a bowling point of view, quick Navdeep Saini offers a lot more pace and control and could come into the playing XI.

The Kiwis are, unfortunately, missing main pace bowlers Trent Boult, Lockie Ferguson and Matt Henry. They have limited options in their bench, which means they will have to make a tough call. They could bring in out-and-out quick Scott Kuggeleijn for the misfiring Blair Tickner or spinner Mitchell Santner.

Also, the hosts will be hoping that openers Martin Guptill and Colin Munro set the tone of the innings at the top of the order to knock India off their path, which should ease the pressure on their uninspiring middle and lower order.

Hamilton is expected to serve up another flat wicket where a score of 190 or more should be achieved. If India win the toss, they might be tempted to bat first and test their ability to defend a total. But with a series win on the line, they are likely to go for the result first.

Updated: January 28, 2020 07:06 PM

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