MOUNT MAUNGANUI - India have a chance to seal the five-match one-day international series in Mount Maunganui, but New Zealand will hope their batsmen can finally come good when it matters most on Monday, 28 January.

Can New Zealand bounce back? The hosts have been comprehensively outplayed in both matches so far. India had them bundled out for 157 in Napier, with Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal, the wrist-spinners, proving too hot to handle for the home batsmen. The same was the cause in the second ODI, in Mount Maunganui, when the Black Caps, in a chase of 325, fell 90 short – a figure that could have been much worse had it not been for Doug Bracewell’s late cameo with the bat. Again, Yadav and Chahal took six wickets between them. India’s batsmen have been adept at handling whatever has been thrown at them by the New Zealand bowlers, but it’s the home batsmen who desperately need to improve. They have looked out of sorts against India’s spin duo, and with India standing a chance to win the series on Monday, it is high time they come good.

Gary Stead, the New Zealand coach, remained confident his batsmen could get the measure of India’s spinners. “It’s not that we can’t play spin bowling – it’s just that we’ve taken some options that haven’t been the best options at times,” Stead said after the second ODI. “I have faith in our guys – it’s not like we can’t. Their two wrist spinners are very, very effective bowlers. Our challenge is to find a way to be better.”

Team balance is another area New Zealand are struggling with. Mitchell Santner and Tim Southee played the first ODI, but they were replaced by Colin de Grandhomme and Ish Sodhi in the second. Bracewell, given his cameo with the bat, will likely be persisted with. “We’re still in some ways experimenting to find out what our very best team is,” said Stead.

India have fewer concerns. This will be the last match on tour for Virat Kohli, and the Indian captain will want to sign off with a biggie – he has managed starts in the series so far, with 45 and 43, but so high are his usual standards, one expects him to convert these to a big hundred sooner rather than later.  Not that India need him to. It’s been a fine tour for the visitors so far, with Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma providing good starts, the middle-order getting among the runs when called upon, including Dhoni assuaging long-held concerns.

The bowlers have kept New Zealand in check too. All of which means the onus is on New Zealand to keep the series interesting.

Ahead of this series, Ross Taylor was pinpointed as New Zealand’s big batting hope against the might of India – he had a stellar year in 2018, and is the leading Black Caps batsman in the format. However, none of that has been evident so far in the series. He has managed 24 and 22, and New Zealand will need him to be a lot more solid and dominating if they are to tackle India’s spinners.

It’s Indian captain Virat Kohli’s last match on tour – he has been rested for the last two ODIs and the T20Is with an eye on the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2019 – and he’ll be keen to make his mark before putting his feet up. That could mean a 40th ODI hundred if New Zealand aren’t careful. They need to be wary.

There’s no rain forecast in Mount Maunganui on Monday, but there’ll be partial cloud cover, which will offer respite from the sun. The second ODI was played here as well, and as was evident then, there are runs on this pitch if the batsmen apply themselves.


NEW ZEALAND: Kane Williamson (c), Trent Boult, Doug Bracewell, Colin de Grandhomme, Lockie Ferguson, Martin Guptill, Matt Henry, Tom Latham, Colin Munro, Henry Nicholls, Mitchell Santner, Ish Sodi, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor.

INDIA: Virat Kohli (c), Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Ambati Rayudu, Dinesh Karthik, Kedar Jadhav, MS Dhoni, Vijay Shankar, Shubman Gill, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Ravindra Jadeja, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Khaleel Ahmed, Mohammed Shami, Hardik Pandya.