18-Nov-2017
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India eye series triumph

From the hot and humid conditions of Mumbai and Pune, India's seemingly endless (and perhaps meaningless as well) limited-overs campaign this year moves to the dusty, but mercifully, the colder Kanpur.

India have won three ODI series this year with some degree of comfort besides entering the final of the Champions Trophy, and they are on the cusp of adding another triumph when they take on New Zealand in the third and final match here at the Green Park Stadium, which incidentally is hosting its first day-night game, on Sunday with the series tied at 1-1.

While New Zealand were expected to be an easy meal for the high-flying Indians, they surprised the hosts by their resilience and quiet confidence in Mumbai to take an early lead in the series. India did hit back in style in Pune to level the scores but Virat Kohli and company know now they can take the Kiwis lightly at their own peril.

Though a chance of winning a series itself is a big motivation for the Black Caps, the added incentive will be a small piece of history. New Zealand have never beaten India in a bilateral series at their own backyard and the closest they came to winning one previously was last year when they lost the decider in the five-match series rather meekly.

India once again will be overwhelming favourites to clinch their fourth series win of the year but New Zealand look ready for a scrap. The Green Park traditionally has seen an equal contest between bat and ball with the pitch, more often than not, playing low and slow. However, the winter weather may just be ideal for the pacers at least with the new ball.

Bhuvneshwar Kumar, a native of Uttar Pradesh, agreed conditions at this time of the year suit swing bowling which is his forte. He can be a real threat to the Kiwi top-order along with Jasprit Bumrah.

Bhuvneshwar was a class act in Pune, using variations and hitting the right areas as the visiting batsmen found the going tough against him. One batsman who has found the going tough against India is skipper Kane Williamson who has fallen for six and three in the first two matches.

Williamson, in fact, has never had it easy in ODIs in India. He averages just over 30 in 12 innings with just one fifty. The right-hander will be looking to amend that poor record.

It's not just the Indian pacers who would relish the conditions though. With Trent Boult and Tim Southee in the line-up, besides other medium pace all-rounders, New Zealand too can pose a big threat to Indian batsmen whose only real struggle came in a T20 match against Australia in Guwahati where Jason Behrendorff demolished the hosts' top-order with his swinging deliveries.

It's unlikely New Zealand will add another spinner to bowl with Mitchell Santner given how deep they bat with all-rounder Colin Grandhomme in the line-up.

India too would probably retain the same side that did duty in the second match. The inclusion of Axar Patel in place of Kuldeep Yadav turned out to be a smart move as the left-arm spinner not only kept Tom Latham quiet with his stump to stump line but also took him out when he attempted to sweep.

On the batting front, most bases appear covered though Rohit Sharma will be desperate to make up for the two low scores on the trot. The Indian vice-captain need not look beyond his previous visit to the venue in 2015 when he hammered 150 against South Africa albeit in a losing cause.