New Zealand host India for what should be an exciting and high-scoring 5-match T20I series!
India will win the match!
Team India has just finished a long and successful home season where they defeated teams like South Africa, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, West Indies and Australia across formats. Their next assignment is the tough and vital long tour of New Zealand.
India has traditionally not done well in New Zealand and would hope to change their fortunes here when they commence the 5-match T20I series which begins with on January 24. New Zealand is a very strong team at home.
However, they were thumped 2-1 in their own backyard by England in a T20I series recently. The Kiwis are also missing some key players in this series which could hurt them against a strong side like India. The short boundaries and flat pitches should mean that we will get to see some high-scoring and exciting contests.
New Zealand will, of course, have the home advantage. But India will come hard with their strong batting and may well topple the home side.
New Zealand has a good and solid batting unit that, on its day, can tear apart any opposition. In Martin Guptill and Colin Munro, they have a formidable opening pair. Then, they have the reliable skipper Kane Williamson to man the middle-order along with the experience of Ross Taylor. All-rounder Colin de Grandhomme has been providing the late flourish and could well be the impact player for his team in this match. This is a settled batting unit but they would still need some more fire-power from the lower-order.
What might hurt New Zealand is the nonavailability of key players in the bowling department. Trent Boult, Lockie Ferguson, Matt Henry and Jimmy Neesham will all be missing the series due to injuries and that is surely going to dent the team.
Boult and Ferguson had become a vital part of the limited-overs setup and Neesham has been a terrific seam bowling all-rounder. In the absence of these players, the onus will be on the experienced Tim Southee and off-spinners Mitchell Santner and Ish Sodhi. There are some new faces in the team's bowling like Blair Tickner and Hamish Bennett who might find the going tough against India's star-studded batting.
Kane Williamson (captain), Martin Guptil, Colin Munro, Ross Taylor, Colin de Grandhomme, Tim Seifert (wk), Scott Kuggeleijn, Daryl Mitchell, Mitchell Santner, Ish Sodhi, Tim Southee.
Mitchell Santner, Hamish Bennett, Colin Munro, Blair Tickner, Tim Seifert, Colin de Grandhomme, KS Williamson, Martin Guptill, Ross Taylor, Ish Sodhi, TG Southee
India's main strength is their batting. Rohit Sharma, Lokesh Rahul, and captain Virat Kohli are expected to do the bulk of the scoring from the top-order. The injury to Shikhar Dhawan means that Rahul will get a longer run as an opener and the in-form batsman, who has been moved around all around, will relish playing at his favorite spot. Shreyas Iyer has done a commendable job as the No.4 batsman of the team and will look to leave his mark in the game.
Wicket-keeper Rishabh Pant and all-rounders Shivam Dube and Ravindra Jadeja are likely to form the lower middle-order for India and how these players perform might be crucial to India's chances. The return of Jasprit Bumrah has really added meat to India's bowling armory. He looks in a good rhythm and will certainly have a role to play.
Mohammed Shami and young pacer Navdeep Saini have done an excellent job of bowling yorkers at the death and it would be interesting to see how Kohli uses them. Leg-spinner Kuldeep Yadav and left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja have been India's spin combination in T20Is recently but bowling on this short ground won't be easy for them.
Virat Kohli (C), Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, Shreyas Iyer, Rishabh Pant (wk), Shivam Dube, Kuldeep Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Navdeep Saini, Ravindra Jadeja.
Virat Kohli, YS Chahal, Shreyas Iyer, Lokesh Rahul, Rohit Sharma, Shivam Dube, Manish Pandey, Ravindra Jadeja, JJ Bumrah, SN Thakur, Mohammed Shami
The pitch at Eden Park in Auckland favours the batsmen as it is a hard surface where the ball comes nicely to the bat. Batsmen will enjoy the short boundaries and bowlers are likely to struggle. The weather in Auckland for the game is expected to be sunny and pleasant.
Eden Park in Auckland is a high-scoring venue and totals of 200-plus has been achieved on 5 occasions here. The highest total here is Australia's 245-5 against New Zealand in 2018. Even in the first T20I that was played at Eden Park - between New Zealand and Australia in 2005- Australia had amassed 214-5 after batting first. Thus, expect a high-scoring game and the team batting first might get close to 190-200 runs.
The team winning the toss is likely to bat first. This is a good batting surface and the team batting first would look to assert pressure by putting on a huge total.
The last time India toured New Zealand for a T20I series was in early 2019 where they were beaten 2-1. Interestingly, in the last 5 T20Is between New Zealand and India, the Kiwis have won thrice. Thus, New Zealand will certainly have the edge as they are also playing at home.
However, they are missing some key players from the bowling unit along with a regular all-rounder. This is bound to upset their rhythm and affect them. India, on the other hand, has been playing limited-overs cricket regularly and shouldn't take much time to get going.
They have a power-packed batting lineup and some good variety in bowling that can help them outplay New Zealand in their own backyard. We can expect a close and high-scoring contest. But on current form, back India to win the first T20I against New Zealand.
India will win the match!