India poised for first T20 series win in New Zealand
A ruthless India are expected to seal their maiden T20 International series win in New Zealand and only a special comeback from the struggling hosts in the third game, in Hamilton, on Wednesday can delay what seems inevitable.
India won the twin T20 Internationals in Auckland by margins of six and seven wickets respectively to go 2-0 up in the five-match series.
A third successive win at Seddon Park will give them their first ever T20I series' win on New Zealand soil, a feat they were unable to achieve on two occasions previously. India lost 0-2 under Mahendra Singh Dhoni back in 2008-09, and last year, they went down 1-2.
Overall, this Indian side has seen an uptick in fortunes and are unbeaten in five T20 series since the 2019 ODI World Cup, including the ongoing one against the Black Caps. The only contest they didn't win was against South Africa, when the three-match series ended 1-1 after one of the games was washed out.
However, their current winning form in T20 cricket won't lead to any meaningful change in the ICC rankings. India are currently placed fifth in the T20I rankings, and need to win the remaining three matches – this series 5-0 – to move up to fourth from their current fifth spot.
New Zealand are currently placed sixth. Pakistan, Australia, England and South Africa, in that order, sit ahead in the rankings' table.
The greater concern at present is building towards the T20 World Cup to be hosted in Australia later this year. In that regard though, the team management is quietly confident that various pieces of the jigsaw puzzle are starting to fall into place, and at the right time.
This is specifically boosted by the performances of KL Rahul and Shreyas Iyer over the recent months, particularly on tour thus far.
As such, there are no changes to be expected in the Indian line-up for the third T20. On Tuesday, there was an optional practice session with skipper Virat Kohli, KL Rahul, Yuzvendra Chahal, Mohammed Shami and Jasprit Bumrah, the ones missing in action.
The support staff worked closely with those players who haven't yet received a chance to play in the series yet. Ravi Shastri paid close attention to Washington Sundar, while batting coach Vikram Rathour was busy with Rishabh Pant. Both are expected to sit out again on Wednesday.
There is possibility of one change to the Indian line-up. Kuldeep Yadav sat out the first two matches in Auckland, and that could have been a move motivated more by the ground size than anything else.
Chahal provides greater control and his wrist spin moves away from the majority of right-handers in the Black Caps' line-up, thus against the arc of swing.
Yadav is a tad more adventurous in his flight and the angle of his spin into the right-handers could have been easy fodder at Eden Park's short boundaries.
Whether Yadav comes back into contention at the regular-sized Seddon Park remains to be seen. Additionally, there is little chance of Chahal-Yadav playing together, a move India have shied away from since the ODI World Cup.
From New Zealand's perspective, this is the last opportunity for Colin de Grandhomme to make an impression. The all-rounder will be replaced in the squad for the last two T20Is by batsman Tom Bruce.
Grandhomme has played strictly as a batsman so far in this series, and has scores of 0 and 3 in the first two games.
New Zealand are not too worried about their bowling performances in this series, despite India's relative ease in chasing down totals in the first two matches. Their greater worry is contending with the Indian bowling, in particular Jasprit Bumrah who has regained much of his pre-injury rhythm.
In both matches, they were unable to get him away, whether at the start or during the death overs. For their part, India mixed things up well in the second T20, holding Bumrah back until later in the power play.
New Zealand have had a poor run at Eden Park off late, but their record at Seddon Park holds in good stead. They have won seven out of nine T20Is played in Hamilton, and will be hoping to stop India from taking an unassailable lead in the series.
India: Virat Kohli (capt), Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul (wk), Manish Pandey, Rishabh Pant, Sanju Samson, Shreyas Iyer, Shivam Dube, Ravindra Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Shardul Thakur, Navdeep Saini, Washington Sundar.
New Zealand: Kane Williamson (capt), Martin Guptill, Ross Taylor, Scott Kuggeleijn, Colin Munro, Colin de Grandhomme, Tom Bruce, Daryl Mitchell, Mitchell Santner, Tim Seifert (wk), Hamish Bennett, Ish Sodhi, Tim Southee, Blair Tickner.
Match starts at: 12.30pm IST