A thrilling victory via a Super over in the third T20I has given India an unassailable 3-0 lead in the five-match series against New Zealand. This margin gives Virat Kohli and the team management the luxury to rest a few players while also giving others in the squad an opportunity to impress going into the 4th T20I at Wellington on January 31.
It was Mohammed Shami and Rohit Sharma who were the stars in the previous match with the pacer first defending two runs off the last four balls to push the game into a Super Over. Rohit then took over and hit back-to-back sixes with 10 required off the last two balls in the Super Over to seal victory.
Where to watch: The match starts 12.30 PM IST. It will be broadcast live on Star Sports 1 and Star Sports 1 HD. Online viewers can catch the action on Hotstar.
The nail-biting finish also gave India their first-ever T20I series win in New Zealand.
There is only a short turnaround time for the last two matches, back-to-back in Wellington and Mt. Maunganui on January 31 and February 2, respectively.
Both teams spent January 30 travelling from Hamilton to Wellington, and with a similar tight schedule for the final game of the series as well, there seems to be little chance of nets for either match.
While a five-match T20I series is a rarity, India's early victory means both sides can contemplate various permutations in light of the T20 World Cup later in the year.
From an Indian perspective, need of the hour is to find a balance between experimentation and the winning desire.
Both skipper Virat Kohli and coach Ravi Shastri pride themselves on a win-at-all-times mentality, and they have a rare chance to blank out a 5-0 sweep in this T20I series, thus etching out a slice of history.
Kohli even mentioned the same in the post-match presentation at Seddon Park on January 29 night.
India wouldn't need to change too much to retain a near full-strength playing eleven. There are obvious contenders for certain spots in both batting and bowling department should experimentation kick in.
Sanju Samson and Rishabh Pant are waiting for opportunities, with the former expected to get a look-in. Pant's call-up would depend on which batsman is left out, and whether KL Rahul will continue to keep wickets.
While the top trio is assured of places, Shreyas Iyer has been in superb touch and can claim to pin down a spot on his own as well. Both Manish Pandey and Shivam Dube need more game time as well.
Any of the top four can be rested over the next two games. Indeed it wouldn't be a stretch of imagination if one of Kohli and Rohit Sharma were alternately rested in Wellington and Mt. Maunganui. Such a move would allow the youngsters to keep their spots whilst maintaining the experience in the side too.
More changes are to be expected in the bowling department. Washington Sundar, Kuldeep Yadav and Navdeep Saini are waiting in the wings. All three may not get a look-in immediately. Rest assured though, the team management is sure to rotate a spinner and pacer each.
Sundar is part of Kohli's new-ball strategy on the big Australian grounds, so he can expect a run-in over the next two games. Saini could replace Shardul Thakur, especially if Sundar adds his batting depth to the lower order.
The final question would be over Jasprit Bumrah's inclusion. While he had an off night in Hamilton, there ought to be thoughts about his workload. He is part of both the ODI and Test squads, and is a shoe-in for the T20 World Cup later on as well.
While there have been no concerns about any injury issues, the management needs to be wary of overplaying him in non-consequential bilateral matches.
This was a previously prevalent practice in the build-up to the 2019 ODI World Cup, and the trio of Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Hardik Pandya all suffered major injuries in the aftermath of that tournament.
It remains to be seen if the powers that be will mitigate this risk factor in their planning and preparation for the challenges ahead.
For New Zealand, there is a straightforward change coming up. Colin de Grandhomme is no longer with the squad, giving up his spot for batsman Tom Bruce.
This could be an easy swap for the hosts given that they have been light in the middle order during the past three matches.
There is also a school of thought that Kane Williamson should move up top. Given his batting master class in the Hamilton T20I, there is potential for him to open the innings with Martin Guptill with Colin Munro sliding down.
Mitchell Santner was promoted on Wednesday night to add more momentum to the innings, and it remains to be seen if it was a one-off ploy or something the Black Caps could consider experimenting with.
Conditions and pitch: It will be a drop-in pitch at the Westpac Stadium which could see the ball grip onto the surface bringing the spinners into the game. However, the bounce should be even and the small boundaries should mean we will be in for another high-scoring encounter.
Players to watch out for:
Rohit fired blanks in the first two matches but roared back to form in the 3rd T20I first scoring 65 off 40 balls and then smashing two consecutive sixes in the Super Over to wrap up victory. He will be eager to put on another big score at Wellington.
There have been calls for Williamson to move up the batting order and his performance at Hamilton certainly warrants that opinion. The Kiwi skipper led from the front missing out on a century by just 5 runs scoring 95 off 48 balls. He will be disappointed with his dismissal and will want to help his team notch up their first victory in this series.
India: Virat Kohli (C), 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 and Washington Sundar.
New Zealand: Kane Williamson (C), Martin Guptill, Ross Taylor, Scott Kuggeleijn, Colin Munro, Tom Bruce, Daryl Mitchell, Mitchell Santner, Tim Seifert (WK), Hamish Bennett, Ish Sodhi, Tim Southee and Blair Tickner.
India (Probable XI):Rohit Sharma, Sanju Samson, Virat Kohli (C), Shreyas Iyer, Rishabh Pant (WK), Manish Pandey, Ravindra Jadeja, Shardul Thakur, Mohammed Shami, Yuzvendra Chahal and Navdeep Saini.
New Zealand (Probable XI): Colin Munro, Martin Guptill, Kane Williamson (C), Ross Taylor, Tom Bruce (WK), Daryl Mitchell, Mitchell Santner, Scott Kuggeleijn, Ish Sodhi, Hamish Bennett and Blair Tickner.
Betting Odds: (bet365)
New Zealand: 11/8
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