When the series started, the challenge in front of both New Zealand and India was whether they should use it as preparation for the World Cup or get some wins under their belt going into the tournament. So far, the White Ferns have managed to balance both without dropping a game. They rested their strike bowler Lea Tahuhu in the second ODI, gave young Fran Jonas a go and also planned for contingencies with Amy Satterthwaite donning the captaincy mantle. India, on the other hand, had to do with the players that were available to them – with ace batter Smriti Mandhana, pacers Renuka Singh Thakur and Meghna Singh in MIQ until the culmination of the second ODI.
What’s at stake?
The immediate focus will be on the outcome of the series. For India, they need to win the third ODI on Friday (February 18) at the John Davies Oval in Queenstown to stay alive. For the hosts, this is the perfect opportunity to wrap up the five-match series 3-0 and then maybe experiment a bit to fine-tune their combinations.
Regardless of who captains the side, New Zealand seem to have figured out their best XI or 13. Their batting lineup is fairly sorted with Maddy Green opening in one match and Sophie Devine giving it a go in the second. Experienced Suzie Bates is back among the runs, and the promotion of Amelia Kerr to number three is already looking like a masterstroke ahead of the World Cup. The only worry for them might be the form of their finisher Brooke Halliday and that of wicket-keeper Katey Martin.
Their bowling attack also looks like a well-oiled unit despite conceding 270 on a good batting wicket in the second ODI. Jess Kerr had a great first game; Tahuhu is expected to return on Friday and Hayley Jensen was impressive with her change-ups and judicious use of bouncers. Amelia will continue to headline the spin contingent, while Jonas will look to build on her debut, where she snapped up Harmanpreet Kaur as her maiden ODI wicket in the second game. They will be hoping others to emulate Amelia, who at the moment can’t do any wrong, and put on a better show in the field.
ALSO READ: A World Cup trophy would certainly go nicely in the cabinet: Sophie Devine
For the visitors, the focus is once again on their continuous troubles to be a competitive side on standard 50-over decks. Although they managed to score 270 in the second game in the absence of Mandhana, questions have been raised about their approach in the middle overs. It took a whirlwind knock from young Richa Ghosh to resurrect a stalling inning and for them to get the total they eventually finished with despite the start they had. The expected return of Mandhana will lift India's spirits as they continue to look for that winning template. But that also means the impressive S Meghana is likely to miss out. They will also be hoping that Ghosh can take the field – Taniya Bhatia kept wickets in place of her as the 18-year-old injured her leg during her batting effort.
India’s bowling – minus Jhulan Goswami – struggled to make further inroads after getting three early wickets in the second ODI. Simran Dil Bahadur, on her debut, bowled only three overs, as the visitors once again relied on the spinners to do the bulk of the work. However, Deepti Sharma seemed to have gotten her bite back and looked like the bowler she was before the pandemic-induced break. Rajeshwari Gayakwad continued her good run, giving the off-spinner much-needed support. India will be hoping for Poonam Yadav also to turn around her fortunes. The sixth bowling option is still a worry, with Kaur not being able to maintain consistency through her spell.
It remains to be seen whether India will field one of Thakur or Singh in place of one of the spinners if Goswami slot herself back as the strike bowler.
What they said:
“We had some big partnerships and contributions from some key players in Amelia Kerr and Suzie Bates. It’s been great to sit back and watch batters go about their work,”
- Lea Tahuhu on the strides they have made as a team.
ALSO READ: India's bowling woes in need of an instant fix
Players to watch out for:
Amelia Kerr: Amelia is only 21-years-old, but it feels like she has been around forever, having made her debut at the age of 16. Despite scoring that record-breaking 232 not out, she was always seen as a bowler who can bat. But with the added responsibility of batting at three, the leg-spinner seems to be finally consistently delivering on the early promise. On her return, Amelia has taken her domestic form straight into the international arena and will once again be a thorn in the flesh of the visitors, with both bat and ball.
© Women's CricZone
Smriti Mandhana: The 25-year-old left-hander has been India’s best batter in the format since the last World Cup in 2017 and she went on to win two ICC Cricketer of the Year awards in the cycle. Although the visitors will be hoping for other batters to come to the party as well, Mandhana’s return will bolster the confidence of their lineup as a whole.
Head to head: Played 50 matches, New Zealand 30 – 19 India
* Amelia Kerr averages 153.75 with the bat and 18.69 with the ball in the 19 New Zealand wins she has been a part of.
* Poonam Yadav averages 74.16 with the ball at a strike rate of 91 in the last ten ODIs she has played, while her career bowling average is 24.94 and she takes a wicket every 37.6 balls.
India: Mithali Raj (c), Smriti Mandhana, Shafali Verma, Yastika Bhatia, Harmanpreet Kaur, Richa Ghosh (wk), Deepti Sharma, Pooja Vastrakar, Jhulan Goswami, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Renuka Singh Thakur
New Zealand: Sophie Devine (c), Suzie Bates, Maddy Green, Amelia Kerr, Amy Satterthwaite, Brooke Halliday, Katey Martin (wk), Hayley Jensen, Lea Tahuhu, Fran Jonas, Jess Kerr