After New Zealand’s poor showing on their recent tour to the West Indies and in the two test series against India, anyone could be forgiven for thinking that the result of this game is essentially a foregone conclusion (3.30pm BST, Saturday, September 8).
However, the Kiwis under Ross Taylor are a much stronger unit in this form of the game and they should represent a tougher challenge as they try to find form for this month’s T20 World Cup.
In addition, the squad has been strengthened by the return of One Day specialists such as Nathan McCullum while Daniel Vettori should also be back in the side to bolster both the batting and bowling departments.
It is rare to find such generous odds as 11/5 on any side, particularly when you consider that there is still something of a lottery element that exists in T20 cricket. Add in the fact that there has been torrential rain in this part of India this week and you could see the match shortened further with the possibility of Duckworth Lewis coming to the aid of the side batting second.
If this all sounds like the betting equivalent of ‘clutching at straws’ then it probably is but it’s always tempting to weigh up a side’s chances in a twenty20 game when you see odds such as the 11/5 on a New Zealand win. India are favourites for a reason and they will be tough to beat, even if the match is affected by the weather.
While Sachin Tendulkar won’t feature, this is a powerful line up with many of the familiar faces included such as Gambhir and Sehwag at the top of the order. MS Dhoni showed signs of returning to his best form in the test series after a tiring twelve months and it’s looking ominously like the Indians are peaking just at the right time with the World Cup less than two weeks away.
New Zealand shouldn’t just roll over however but they will need Brendon McCullum to be at his bludgeoning best at the top of the order. The wicket keeper/batsman was disappointing in the IPL but he can be a match changer if he stays at the crease and doesn’t give his wicket away cheaply as he seems to be doing.
Aside from McCullum, Martin Guptill enjoyed a productive One Day series against South Africa earlier in the year and along with Ross Taylor, he is another batsman who can take the game away from the opposition in the space of just a few overs.
The visitors do look weak in their bowling attack however and while Vettori’s return should help to keep the run rate down, there looks to be too much emphasis on containment and not enough on penetration which is also needed to win T20 games.
Overall, no matter how tempting those Kiwi odds may seem, it is hard to see anything other than an Indian victory in this first game of the series.