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It's do or die for Team India against New Zealand in Auckland!

Last updated on: January 24, 2014 21:01 IST

It's do or die for Team India against New Zealand in Auckland

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Having suffered back-to-back defeats, World champions India are desperate to win the third One-Day International against New Zealand, in Auckland, on Saturday and bounce back in the five-match series.

The visitors, who lost the No 1 ODI ranking after losing the second match in Hamilton, only to regain it following England's 57-run victory over Australia in the fourth ODI of their series on Friday,  are keen to make amends and stamp their authority in what is a must-win outing.

If Dhoni's men fail to win the third match, it will be their second consecutive ODI series defeat outside the subcontinent, following their 0-2 loss in South Africa in December.

The visitors lost the first ODI at Napier by 24 runs and then went down by 15 runs via the Duckworth-Lewis method) in the rain-hit second match at Hamilton.

For India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who prefers to chase, as he did in the first two games, the size of Eden Park, the venue for the third ODI, should be another worry. The straight boundaries are shorter than 55 metres, with the square at 66 meters are longest parts of this make-shift cricket stadium, which recently witnessed two chases of 200-plus in the domestic T20 matches.


Photographs: Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images

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Ashwin failed to pick a single wicket in the first two ODIs

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The Indian bowlers will need to re-work their strategy and take a few wickets in the middle overs. They have tried to contain the batsmen in the middle of the innings before restricting the damage in the death overs. This strategy has so far backfired, because not many wickets have fallen until the 35th over and the Kiwis have taken full toll in the Batting Powerplay and the death overs.

Senior spinner Ravichandran Ashwin has not taken a single wicket in the last two ODIs and struggled to keep the runs down. He conceded runs at 5.89 per over in the last five matches, while Ishant Sharma has conceded at 6.12 per over while taking six wickets in his last four games. The two players should consider themselves lucky if they make it to the playing eleven for the third ODI what with a lot of options available on the bench.

The other bowlers have fared no better, with Ravindra Jadeja (three wickets) going at six runs per over, while Bhuvneshwar Kumar (two wickets) has played only three matches and gone for 5.73 per over.

Mohammad Shami is, by far, the most expensive bowler, giving away runs at 6.70, but has been among the wickets -- 16 in five matches.


Image: Ravichandran Ashwin
Photographs: Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images

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Openers Rohit, Dhawan have struggled against the Kiwi pacers

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The batting at the top of the order is another problem area for the visitors. Openers Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma have struggled to get going away from home, their best stand being a lowly 22 runs in the last four games.

Rohit, whose batting is defined by the ease with which he scores, has looked out of place against the moving ball. His shot-making options have been restricted at the start of the innings as the two new balls do a lot in these seamer-friendly conditions.

Meanwhile, his partner, Dhawan, has also found it tough, having fallen to the short deliveries a few times recently.

The duo's performances in the last year, adding 1247 runs in 22 matches at an average of 59.38 for the opening wicket, means that they have been given a long rope at the top of the order. But their performance outside the subcontinent is surely going invite serious questions, unless they script a turnaround in the remaining three games of the series.


Image: Mitchell McClenaghan (left) exchanges words with Rohit Sharma
Photographs: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images

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Make-or-break game for Raina in Auckland

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Ajinkya Rahane, who has batted at No. 4, gave a good account of himself with a fluent innings of 36, putting on 90 runs for the third wicket with Virat Kohli in the second ODI.

The spotlight is on Suresh Raina, who is struggling to produce runs. He is under the scanner more than anyone else, as Yuvraj Singh was dropped after the South African tour.

Whilst batting in the nets, Raina took a knock on his left arm, which was treated with ice-packs and heavily bandaged. If he is able to pick his bat, he is expected to play in what is arguably a make-or-break game for him.

With the series on the line, Dhoni must be giving serious thought to selection of playing eleven with Ambati Rayudu, Stuart Binny, Amit Mishra, Ishwar Pandey and Varun Aaron sitting on the bench. It will be interesting to see if the team management makes changes or persists with the current eleven despite below par performances.


Image: Suresh Raina (right) with Mahendra Singh Dhoni
Photographs: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images

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New Zealand will look to finish off the series in Auckland

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Even as the visiting camp looks in disarray, hosts New Zealand are composed.

Since New Zealand have a cushion of two victories going ahead, they will be looking to close-out the series in the third match itself, given that the fourth ODI is again in Hamilton where the square is arguably slower.

The drop-in pitch at Eden Park will keep their bowlers very interested.

Hamish Bennett, with his lively pace, is expected to come into contention for a place in the side as the pitch curator, Blair Christiansen, assured that the wicket will generate some pace and bounce, enticing both batsmen and bowlers.

It will bring short bowling into play as well.

Needless to say, India will again be on trial in more ways than one.

Teams:

New Zealand: Brendon McCullum (captain), Corey Anderson, Martin Guptill, Mitchell McClenaghan, Nathan McCullum, Kyle Mills, James Neesham, Luke Ronchi (w/k), Jesse Ryder, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor, Kane Williamson, Hamish Bennett.

India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain, w/k), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Suresh Raina, Ambati Rayudu, Stuart Binny, Ravindra Jadeja, R Ashwin, Ishant
Sharma, Mohammad Shami, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ishwar Pandey, Varun Aaron, Amit Mishra.

Match starts at 6.30 am IST.


Image: Ross Taylor (centre) celebrates with his team mates after winning the second ODI in Hamilton.
Photographs: Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images

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