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RAJKOT: With India finally breaking the T20 jinx against the Kiwis with an impressive 53-run victory in New Delhi on Wednesday night, the spotlight has shifted to the second tie of the three-match series, to be held at the Saurashtra Cricket Association (SCA) ground here on Saturday night.
After winning the ODI series, Virat Kohli and Co will now aim to clinch the series with a triumph here.
While the Kiwis had a full-fledged net practice on Friday morning, the home side preferred to take some much-needed rest, having arrived here late on Thursday night. The Men in Blue, anyway, have very little to worry about, given the form of the batsmen and the bowlers.
Openers Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma blasted their way to a record 158-run partnership in the first game in New Delhi and captain Kohli is also in great nick.
Still, the Indians will not take the Black Caps lightly. Kane Williamson’s team fought hard in the ODI series. They are known for their fearless cricket, especially in the shorter formats of the game and would be eager to pull one back and keep the series alive.
The visitors’ top-order batting boasts of the likes of Martin Guptill, Colin Munroe and Williamson, all having the capability of changing the complexion of the game singlehandedly.
They would be keen to make an impact against the Indian bowling attack which has been very consistent, especially pacers Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah whose death over bowling has kept the Kiwis on a tight leash.
Left-arm spinner Axar Patel and attacking legspinner Yuzvendra Chahal also troubled the visitors in the first game and would be expected to play a key role here too. Among the Kiwis, Tom Latham is the one who has batted confidently against the Indian spinners and the visitors will hope he keeps his good form going.
In contrast, New Zealand’s new-ball attack, spearheaded by Trent Boult and Tim Southee, has not looked very effective against a confident Indian side.
It is not just the batting and bowling where the Indians have excelled. They have fielded better too. Catching has let the Kiwis down, with their skipper Williamson admitting after the Kotla rout: “We were outplayed in all the areas, fielding included, which is something we pride ourselves on and something we need to be much better at in Twenty20 cricket.”
The fans should have a blast as the wicket here is full of runs. “The Rajkot pitch has always been a batsman-friendly track,” said Madhukar Worah, acting secretary of SCA.