When India were all over New Zealand during the course of the Test matches, they would not have imagined that they would be going into the final one-dayer at Vizag with the series levelled 2-2. But, that's how things stand a day before the final match of the series. Unlike the Tests, New Zealand were always expected to give India a tougher run in the one-day format, which is exactly what they have done. And now, they have a chance to create history at Vizag. The Kiwis have never won a bilateral series in India, and a victory on Saturday will give them exactly that. As for India, they would be keen to avoid the same.
If India want to win the series, the mantra is pretty straightforward actually -- bat well, which is what they haven't done at all in the first four matches. The victories that have come chasing have been solely due to the efforts of Virat Kohli with the bat, and some very good all-round bowling. But, the batsmen both experienced, and the not so experienced ones, need to deliver. At the top, runs will be expected from both Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane. Sharma is yet to get a single score of note in the series, which is a big disappointment. Rahane got his first half-century in the previous match but did not carry on.
The fringe players who have got a chance with the regulars not around also need to stand up and deliver in the do-or-die game. Manish Pandey has blown away plenty of precious opportunities. For a player of his talent, better is expected. Kedar Jadhav has been a surprise package with the ball, but he has failed to deliver with the bat, the reason he was primarily chosen in the team for. MS Dhoni batted at four again, and it seems he will continue there. But, his batting in the last match looked rather ordinary. India is missing someone like an Ambati Rayudu in the middle, who was doing a good job of getting the decent scores, but has run out of favour for inexplicable reasons.
There should not be too many complaints with regards to India's bowling. For a start though, they would only hope that Jasprit Bumrah is fit. In his absence, India clearly missed a good death bowler. Veteran leggie Amit Mishra has done reasonably well in the absence of Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin. He would be keen to carry on in the same vein. Axar Patel batted well in the previous match, but his bowling hasn't been great by any sense. With Jadhav doing brilliantly with the ball, it would be interesting to see whether India retain him or play both Umesh Yadav and Dhawal Kulkarni in case Bumrah is fit.
New Zealand have nothing to lose in the final match, and can go all out. They will be pleased with the fact that Martin Guptill put in a man of the match performance in the previous match. With Tom Latham and skipper Kane Williamson already in form, that makes the top three a lot more formidable. The lack of runs from Ross Taylor and the middle order in general remains a worry. But, the lower order has done well, Jimmy Neesham and Matt Henry getting among the runs. In the bowling department, Tim Southee, Trent Boult and Neesham proved too good for India in the previous match. There is a forecast of the game being washed out owing to the cyclone. Weather-permitting, we should have a cracker of a game.
--By A Cricket Analyst