India will play New Zealand in their T20I at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad on Wednesday, February 1st. The match is due to begin at 7.30 pm local time.
This match, which concludes New Zealand’s white ball tour, will decide the outcome of the series, with New Zealand having won the first match in Ranchi by 21 runs, and India the second in Lucknow by six wickets.
That scoreline disguises what a close finish it was in a low scoring match, dominated by spin, in which not a single six was struck, and it was only decided off the penultimate ball of the game.
This game is the last international match that India will play before what many consider is the start of the main event – the eagerly awaited test series against Australia.
Team selection may depend on the pitch, although New Zealand are likely to be unchanged.
India, though, have a dilemma.
Their selectors will be conscious of the old adage about not changing a winning team, and, given that this is a decider, may not want to upset the balance of the side.
At the same time, there must be a temptation to give Prithvi Shaw another opportunity after he worked his way back into international contention with his form in domestic cricket.
Ishan Kishan has gone off the boil somewhat since his double century against Bangladesh in their 3rd ODI in December, but as he is also on wicketkeeping duty, his position appears to be safe. However, Rahul Tripathi has yet to impress playing for his country, and he could be vulnerable. Alternatively, it might be decided to give Shubman Gill a rest.
The weather on Wednesday is expected tom be dry and warm, with temperatures during the day reaching a maximum of 27 degrees Celsius. There is little chance of rain interrupting proceedings.
The stadium has five black and six red soil pitches, and it remains to be seen what is used for the match. The black soil ones offer better bounce to the bowlers, whilst those of the red variety offer more turn, and, therefore help to the spinners.
There have been six previous T20Is staged at this ground, with three win by the side batting first and three by the team chasing.
The average first innings score here is 174.
The most runs scored on this ground are the 258 by Virat Kohli in five matches, but he will not be adding to his haul this time round as he is not part of the India squad.
Suryakumar Yadav is the dangerman as far as New Zealand are concerned. The 2022 ICC T20I Men’s Player of the Year threatened to swing the match his side’s way in the first T20I, albeit it was eventually in a losing cause. And then he showed the other side of his game, with a patient innings that helped guide his side over the line in Lucknow.
If New Zealand are to win this match, they are going to have to devise a way of getting him out cheaply.
Devon Conway is third behind Yadav in the ICC T20I rankings, and has already given glimpses on this tour of what he can do, scoring 138 in the third ODI and a half century in the first T20I in Ranchi.
His team may need another big innings from him.
Finn Allen, his opening partner, has had a largely disappointing tour by his own standards, but he will be keen to sign-off by reminding people what he can do.
Unlike the ODI series, which was one sided, the T20is have been much more competitive, and, the outcome of this match is, therefore, harder to call.
It may depend on the pitch, and, given that the New Zealand spinners have been strong in both matches so far, India may choose to go with a surface that offers more help to the pacers.
They will also know that should help the ball come off the bat better, and, since they have the more consistent batting line-up, that should also favour them.
India, will consider themselves favourites, but it could well be another close match.
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