India look to extend T20 series lead over New Zealand

Auckland: India is unlikely to change a winning combination but a few changes in the bowling department won’t come as a surprise when the visitors take on New Zealand in the second T20 International at the high-scoring Eden Park here today. Jasprit Bumrah was the only bowler on either side to concede less than eight runs per over at the peculiarly shaped ground with short boundaries in the series opener on Friday. Both Mohammed Shami (0-53 off four overs) and Shardul Thakur (1-44 off three overs) were taken to the cleaners with New Zealand batsmen using their pace to collect boundaries at will.

Since Shami is expected to retain his place in the playing XI, Thakur might make way for Navdeep Saini. However, Saini, with his extra pace, too could go for big runs at the small ground. On the batting front, Virat Kohli was a pleased skipper as the much-scrutinised middle-order delivered for the team under pressure. Shreyas Iyer solidified at his position at No. 4 with an unbeaten 58 off 29 balls.

It was a near-perfect start of the tour for the away team which chased down 204 with relative ease to go 1-0 up in the five-match series. Ahead of the Indian team’s departure, there was concern about constant shuffling, much like the ODI experimentation ahead of the 2019 World Cup.

Iyer’s form has put paid to all that chatter. The batsman has figured in all of India’s 12 T20Is since September last year, averaging 34.14 in 11 innings with two half-centuries and strike-rate 154.19. With his match-winning temperament at Eden Park, Iyer has stitched down a spot in the batting line-up for good. As Manish Pandey and Dube alternate in finishing duties, aided by KL Rahul’s wicketkeeping skills, India’s T20 batting line-up finally seems set in the short term barring unforeseen changes.

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