India v New Zealand
Tuesday March 15 14:00 GMT
Live on Sky Sports
Hosts, tournament favourites, Number One ranked side in the world. They're fresh from beating Australia 3-0 away, beating Sri Lanka 2-1 at home and going undefeated in winning the Asia Cup. Still, for all their impressive results of late, one can pick a few flaws in them if one really wanted to.
They were bowled out for 101 against a Sri Lanka (admittedly on a green top, but still...) side missing lots of key players and leaked runs in the final few overs of the Asia Cup final against Bangladesh.
Their strength is of course in the Top 3 with Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and the incredible Virat Kohli forming the best top order of any in the tournament. Suresh Raina, highest run scorer in IPL history, Yuvraj Singh and MS Dhoni come next but such has been the form of the Top 3 that the middle order hasn't had much of a bat recently, which could be a concern.
Identified by Ed Hawkins as the value bet of the tournament. He's not wrong. They tick just about every box regarding the make-up of the side and if there are those who think Brendon McCullum is a huge miss at the top of the order, they should be reminded that BMac was just as likely to get out in the first over as he was to hit 20 off it and get his side off to a flyer. Besides, as Ed also explains, they're used to playing without him anyway.
A more conservative approach to captaincy under Kane Williamson, also replacing McCullum as opener, might also just help matters.
In typical New Zealand style, there are no obvious strengths and weaknesses as such. Rather, they do all three disciplines very well including possessing some outstanding fielders. The key to this match will be how the new ball pair of Tim Southee and Trent Boult (both with some IPL experience) bowl at India's top order.
First Innings Runs
There has been a seven year gap between the first T20 played at Nagpur between India and Sri Lanka and the next four- qualifying matches for this World Cup. In that first match Sri Lanka won after posting 215 and first innings totals earlier this month by Affiliate Nations were 158, 170, 147 and 116. That's an average of 161, which you'd expect to be breached by the side batting first given that both teams have good batting line ups.
Four of the five matches were won by the side batting first which would suggest setting a total is the way to go. However, five matches is a small sample and with this being an evening match, the dew factor could mean bowling first is the way to go. That said, India will almost certainly choose to chase irrespective of conditions or ground stats. Their strength is their batting and MS Dhoni feels he has more control of matters when they know what they have to chase.
India are around 1.574/7 with New Zealand 2.89/5. It's not hard to think of a scenario where the outsiders trade as favourites. The loss of two of India's top three for not many runs, an explosive start by Martin Guptil and Williamson batting first or New Zealand going well in chasing India's total with dew making it tricky for India's spinners. Backing New Zealand pre-match and laying off at 2.01/1 for a free bet on New Zealand could be the way to go.
New Zealand Top Batsman
Martin Guptill and Kane Williamson are the 5th and 6th best T20 batsmen in the world, according to the rankings. Understandably, they're the favourites. But there's a fly in the ointment. India's new ball pairing (one of whom will be Ashish Nehra, the other we'll have to wait and see) has made a habit of taking wickets early on. In each of the five matches at the Asia Cup, they dismissed a batsman before the end of the third over.
Assuming the trend continues and one of these two suffer a similar fate, it might be worth going with Number 3 Colin Munro. He's loving batting there (in place of Williamson who as mentioned already is now opening) and recently smashed 67 off 34 in a warm up match against Sri Lanka. He is generously priced at around 7.613/2.
Top India Batsman
The golden rule here is to side with one of India's top three because on some days, no-one else gets a bat.
But which one to go with? Stats-wise it would be Kohli everytime, the World's Number Two batsman in this format, who more often than not these days not only gets to 50 but also regularly remains unbeaten. Sharma can put claim to be arguably the best T20 opener in world cricket and generally goes on to get a big score once set. But he is a little vulnerable early on outside off stump and will face some testing lines and lengths against Southee and Boult.
Dhawan was the key man when India chased Bangladesh's total in the final of the Asia Cup last weekend and is the biggest price of the three at around 5.04/1. If you really want to play this market, Dhawan is arguably the value selection.
0.5 pts Back New Zealand @ 2.89/5 and lay off stake @ 2.01/1
0.5pts Back Colin Munro be Top New Zealand Batsman @ 7.613/2