Saturday, October 29
Start time 1330 local (0800 GMT)
New Zealand have never won an ODI series in India. While the prospect of correcting such a record is daunting at the best of times, the whitewash in the Test series and the drubbing in Dharamsala only made it seem near-impossible. But after nearly two weeks, with the series at 2-2, they would rather look at Saturday's game as a chance to create history. After the Ranchi ODI, every member of New Zealand's team management has used elegant variations of the same theme.
New Zealand's greatest strength during their last visit to India, for the World T20, lay in their astute reading of pitches. Tim Southee put it down to effective information exchange between batsmen and bowlers. "Not every time we can get it right. We just give ourselves the best chance to read the conditions and adapt quickly," he said on the eve of the match.
One area where they have not adapted quickly enough is their middle order. Corey Anderson and Luke Ronchi struggled in the first three ODIs and were subsequently dropped, but Ross Taylor has shown signs of form in the last two games. In a crunch game, they will need most of their batsmen to back what has generally been a competent bowling unit.
India, on the other hand, will probably look at an opportunity missed after they could not close out the series in Ranchi. That means Jayant Yadav and Mandeep Singh will have to wait till at least the new year to make their ODI debuts, unless there is a last-minute injury or a left-field selection punt. For a young middle order, though, this is another chance to repay the faith that MS Dhoni has invested in them.
India LWLWW (last five completed matches, most recent first)
New Zealand WLWLW
In the spotlight
Axar Patel's record of two wickets from four games does not really indicate how well he has bowled this series. He has been Dhoni's go-to holding bowler every time New Zealand's batsmen have looked threatening, and in Ranchi he even contributed a gutsy 38 after being promoted to No.5. Axar's niggardly bowling will once again remain crucial to bottling up New Zealand's middle order.
With seven wickets from four games, Tim Southee has quietly climbed to second place in the top wicket-takers' list for the series. His late swing with the new ball and nerveless death bowling has given New Zealand all-round bowling cover. Southee's knack of striking at the right time, like his dismissals of Dhoni in Delhi, and Manish Pandey and Kedar Jadhav in Ranchi, has proved to be game changing.
Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli and Umesh Yadav were among those that did not feature in India's optional training session. Dhoni had an extended hit in the spinners' net and, along with Jadhav, practised the sweep for a considerable length of time. Jasprit Bumrah appeared to have regained his fitness and will likely take Dhawal Kulkarni's place in the XI. India are unlikely to tinker with the side too much otherwise.
India (probable): 1 Rohit Sharma, 2 Ajinkya Rahane, 3 Virat Kohli, 4 MS Dhoni (capt & wk), 5 Manish Pandey, 6 Kedar Jadhav, 7 Hardik Pandya, 8 Axar Patel, 9 Amit Mishra, 10 Umesh Yadav, 11 Jasprit Bumrah
In Ranchi, New Zealand had replaced Corey Anderson and Matt Henry with two spinners in Ish Sodhi and Anton Devcich. Taylor felt the six-bowler dynamic gave captain Kane Williamson greater latitude. Williamson and Mike Hesson will probably have to choose between the extra batting muscle of Anderson and the extra spin option of Devcich.
New Zealand (probable): 1 Martin Guptill, 2 Tom Latham, 3 Kane Williamson (capt), 4 Ross Taylor, 5 BJ Watling (wk), 6 James Neesham, 7 Anton Devcich/Corey Anderson, 8 Mitchell Santner, 9 Tim Southee, 10 Trent Boult, 11 Matt Henry
Pitch and conditions
The cyclone Kyant, which threatened to hit Visakhapatnam, has weakened into a deep depression, but there is forecast for showers on Friday and thunderstorm on Saturday. There were heavy showers on Thursday night as well, but the curator, K Nagamallaiah, said the ground staff had covered 80% of the outfield. On Saturday, the pitch appeared bald and devoid of any grass, even as the outfield remained lush. "The rain won't have any effect on the pitch. It will remain good for batting and have good bounce," he said.
Stats and trivia
Amit Mishra has taken 10 wickets in the series, three more than any other bowler from either sides.
Tim Southee is the only New Zealand bowler to have taken three-wicket hauls in the series. He did it twice and both came in wins - Delhi and Ranchi.
India have a 4-1 win-loss record in Visakhapatnam. The lone defeat came in the last completed game here, against West Indies in November 2013.
"We have been on the road for a long period of time but we have three more days to get ourselves up. You don't often win series away from home, especially in the subcontinent. We know what we need to do to win."
Ross Taylor was excited about the prospect of making history.
"Virat is a great player and it's always nice if he scores. It makes life easy for the batsmen coming in. But, we have too many quality batsmen in the team and we need to deliver whenever we get the opportunity."
Kedar Jadhav insisted India are not over-dependent on Virat Kohli.