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Kohli and Williamson

Confident India seek maiden T20I series win in New Zealand

NZ v Ind, 1st T20I, preview

New Zealand have won eight of the 11 head-to-head T20I contests against India. In a World Cup year, Virat Kohli's men will be keen to build on their recent form to address those numbers.

Overview:

New Zealand v India, 1st T20I
Eden Park, Auckland
Friday, 24 January; 07:50pm local, 06.50am GMT

Because of Shikhar Dhawan's shoulder injury, KL Rahul will likely retain his opener's slot in the format, this time with Rohit Sharma. While Shreyas Iyer has consolidated his position in the middle order, the series presents another opportunity for Rishabh Pant to establish himself in the set-up. The management could be tempted to test 'keeper-batsman Sanju Samson and young Prithvi Shaw too, both of whom showed signs of good form while playing for India A in the 50-over series in New Zealand.

The abundance of options in the bowling department could result in rotation throughout the series, while the seam-friendly conditions might just see Shivam Dube edge Washington Sundar for the second all-rounder's spot.

As for the hosts, the tour to Australia was a forgettable one, where they were swept 3-0 in Tests. However, a blend of youth and experience makes them a formidable T20I outfit, especially in their home conditions. The team will be bolstered by the return of Kane Williamson, who will take the field in limited overs internationals for the first time since the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup 2019 final at Lord's.

The fact that both teams are evenly matched and close on the MRF Tyres ICC T20I Team Rankings, along with memories of their last international meeting – the World Cup semi-final finish in Manchester – promises to make the five-match series an exciting affair.

Remember the last time

With a win each in the first two games of the three-match series, the two teams headed to Hamilton for the decider, which turned out to be a high-scoring thriller. New Zealand, powered by Colin Munro's 72 and some useful contributions from skipper Williamson (27), 'keeper-batsman Tim Seifert (43) and Colin de Grandhomme (30), posted 212/4 in the first innings after being put in.

India lost Dhawan early in the chase, but Rohit, the stand-in skipper, played the anchor's role to keep the visitors in hunt, getting able support from Vijay Shankar (43), Pant (28) and Hardik Pandya (21). However, all-rounder Daryl Mitchell and paceman Scott Kuggeleijn struck some crucial blows to reduce India to 145/6, leaving another 68 to get off the final 28 balls. Dinesh Karthik and Krunal Pandya got them close, but Tim Southee defended 15 in the final over, helping his side to a narrow four-run win.

What they said

Virat Kohli, India captain: "Honestly, even if you want to think of revenge, these guys are so nice, you can't get into that zone. We get along really well with all these guys and it's all about just being competitive on the field. One thing that I have done is I just focus on what I can do for the team and the vision that needs to be there to take the team forward."

Tim Southee, New Zealand vice-captain: "We had a big chunk of Test cricket and the guys that were in Australia are reasonably experienced guys … they've had tough tours before and they've bounced back and the reason why they've played for a long period of time is they've been able to get through those ups and downs. It's about making that adjustment. What's gone is gone and it was very disappointing, the guys would have learnt from it, and now we've got to look forward to the Indian series."

Conditions

The weather is expected to be largely clear with moderate breeze. A flat batting surface, aided by the small ground dimensions, makes Auckland a paradise for batsmen and a minefield for bowlers. The last T20I played at Eden Park saw 292 runs being scored in a mere 22 overs across two innings of a rain-curtailed game, before a Super Over decided the outcome of yet another New Zealand-England decider.

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