Will New Zealand pull a phoenix?

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Published: Thursday, December 9, 2010, 17:27 [IST]
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Will New Zealand pull a phoenix?

In the doldrums at 0-4 down in the ongoing one-day series against India and on a 10-match losing streak, New Zealand will have to pick up the pieces before the last match at Chennai. Like the mystical phoenix, will this be the time when they finally rise from the ashes?

The visitors have a lot of positives to draw on from the last encounter against the hosts. Their batting finally came together with a strong opening stand, substantial middle-order partnerships and even the tail pitching in to help post a humongous target. The Kiwis would do well to keep their batting order as is and bank on this combination of experience and exuberance. Martin Guptill and Brendon McCullum will have to begin the innings with a surge before the likes of Ross Taylor and Scott Styris can build on the momentum with hopefully another powerful cameo from James Franklin.

Their bowling continues to be a raging concern. After a fairly successful outing in the first match, all the bowlers have slumped big time and have been seriously lacking in the incisiveness to get regular breakthrough or even keep a tab on the run-flow. Andy McKey did well to get two initial breakthroughs in one over in the last match, but fell away after that, going for 63 runs in his 7 overs. Tim Southee and Kyle Mills too struggled for impact, being taken for 129 runs between them, while Nathan McCullum was the only redeeming factor with 2 wickets for 38 in 7.5 overs.

India also has some lessons to learn from Tuesday's match. The side will hope their top order doesn't crumble after the characteristic forceful start. Parthiv Patel played his part as opener, but Gambhir and Kohli will have to make their strong temperaments more consistent. Bowling at the death also emerged as a malady for India, with Ashish Nehra going for 38 in his last two overs. Nevertheless, he stands as one of the key men for India, someone whom the captain turns to during the batting powerplays. He will have to look at being more consistent with his line and length.

For New Zealand, the men to watch out for are Martin Guptill and James Franklin. Guptill got off to a blistering start in the last match and seems to have come out of his rut of poor scores. He will play a crucial role at the top of the order if New Zealand is to win the last match. Can he press on to make a 50 or even a hundred?

Meanwhile Franklin took India completely unaware first with his stabilising temperament and then with his power-hitting prowess. He will hope to pull out another powerful contribution when New Zealand take guard at Chepauk. Jamie How, who has been returning to international cricket after two years, hasn't yet got into the swing of things and New Zealand would do well to drop him for Kane Willaimson, who gives his side a spinner's option as well.

The Chepauk wicket has always been known to be a batting strip and the side bowling first will have to brace itself for another big total. But there has been quite a bit of rain in recent days, and though not a drop has fallen since Wednesday, showers are forecast for Friday.


New Zealand (probable): 1 Brendon McCullum (wk), 2 Martin Guptill, 3 Jamie How/Kane Williamson, 4 Ross Taylor, 5 Scott Styris, 6 James Franklin, 7 Daniel Vettori (capt), 8 Nathan McCullum, 9 Tim Southee, 10 Kyle Mills, 11 Andy McKay

India (probable): 1 Parthiv Patel (wk), 2 Gautam Gambhir (capt), 3 Virat Kohli, 4 Yuvraj Singh, 5 Rohit Sharma, 6 Yusuf Pathan, 7 Saurabh Tiwary, 8 R Ashwin, 9 Praveen Kumar, 10 Munaf Patel, 11 Ashish Nehra


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