WELLINGTON: Pushed out of their comfort zone by some incisive swing bowling in challenging conditions, a jolted India will gain confidence from Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s return as they aim to finish the five-match series against New Zealand on a high.
India’s most experienced ODI player was out with hamstring injury during the last two matches and his return couldn’t have been timed better after their inexplicable collapse for 92 in Hamilton.
A 4-1 margin will look much better than 3-2 but it will be easier said than done at the Basin Reserve in Wellington.
The windy condition here could just be the shot that Trent Boult would need as he again marks his run-up.
And that’s where Dhoni’s presence will be a factor in that middle order which still isn’t rock solid if skipper Virat Kohli isn’t around. Assistant coach Sanjay Bangar confirmed that Dhoni is fit and available for the game.
Dhoni’s calmness in anchoring the innings will be priceless and young Shubman Gill might make the way in the playing XI as the World Cup preparations hit full swing.
The Hamilton match was an eye opener where Ambati Rayudu, Kedar Jadhav and Dinesh Karthik failed to prove a point that they can stand up and be counted if Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan fail on a given day with Kohli also not around.
With the three-match T20I series ahead and also the World Cup round the corner, India will have to address this weakness to ensure that their much-vaunted batting doesn’t crumble on an odd day when the condition aids swing bowling in England.
Rohit has already described it as ‘one of the worst batting performance’ by the team and he would like to lead by example by quickly getting over the disappointment with another fiery opening stand with Shikhar Dhawan on Sunday.
Having returned from provisional suspension post his loose talk on a TV chat show, Hardik Pandya gave ample display of his importance in the ODI team and he will look to continue to deliver.
It will be interesting if Mohammed Shami comes back for the final game with Bhuvneshwar Kumar getting the rest.
The team management might also want to test Mohammed Siraj as Khaleel Ahmed wasn’t very impressive in the last game.
Although the series is done and dusted, the fourth ODI win gave a new lease of life to New Zealand’s campaign and they will look to dish out another superlative performance before going into the T20I series.
Opener Henry Nicholls, who replaced Colin Munro in the fourth ODI, made an unbeaten 30 to provide solidity at the top, while Ross Taylor looked in good touch en route his 93 and 37 not out in the last two innings.
New Zealand, however, is likely to miss out opener Martin Guptill who suffered a back injury during practice.
In the bowling department, Boult has swung his way with a five-wicket haul while Grandhomme seemed to have regained confidence with his three-wicket haul in the last match.
Back into the New Zealand fold, all-rounder James Neesham and spinner Todd Astle have made a decent start with one wicket each in the fourth game. —PTI