March 15, Match 1, Group Stages – Nagpur
Hosts India play perpetual ICC contenders New Zealand in the first match of the group stages of the 2016 ICC World T20. Finally, at long last, the tournament will be underway – with two big-hitting, talented young teams having a go at each other.
India and New Zealand have played 4 completed T20 international matches against each other. New Zealand has WON ALL FOUR. India have NEVER defeated New Zealand in a T20 match so far – beginning from the fateful Johannesburg match in the first T20 World Cup back in 2007, after which India went on their famous winning streak. The last T20 match between the two teams was played way back in 2012 at Chennai, which India lost by 1 run. Many will remember that it was Dhoni at the crease in the end on 22 off 23 balls, one of the few games he has miscalculated and failed to finish. Rohit batted down the order in 2012, and walked in with 6 to get off the last 2 balls. He managed only two doubles off Mumbai Indians teammate James Franklin – giving New Zealand a rare series (1-0) victory in India.
India thrashed West Indies in their warm-up game, and it was Rohit who came to the fore again with a sparkling 98. New Zealand thrashed Sri Lanka on the same day with a gargantuan total of 226. Both batting lineups fired, and the Kiwis seemed to have acclimatized to these conditions very quickly. Irrespective of their second warm-up match, they will enter into this game high on confidence, though New Zealand will enter as the underdog. Both teams have won their last two T20 series on home soil (New Zealand against Pakistan and Sri Lanka), but India had even defeated Australia last month Down Under. Right now, India are on a winning streak of 7 matches (excluding the warm ups). Kane Williamson will be leading the Kiwis in his first full tournament as captain.
Players In Form
India: Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, R Ashwin, Hardik Pandya, Jasprit Bumrah
New Zealand: Martin Guptill, Colin Munro, Corey Anderson, Grant Eliot, Adam Milne
The New Zealand bowling attack will again rely heavily on Boult and Southee, but they will need the support of fast bowler Milne and the spinner McCullum and Sodhi. India’s bowlers have been in good form, while the batting will require Suresh Raina and Yuvraj Singh to step up in case the top 3 fail.
Colin Munro – his whirlwind innings against champions Sri Lanka in subcontinental conditions is a war cry of sorts – and a warning to other “home” Asian teams that they are still a dangerous team without Brendon McCullum. Munro is a clean hitter, and with Anderson, they boast of one of the most underrated and dangerous middle orders in T20 cricket.
I don’t see India losing, with the kind of balance and confidence they have. New Zealand tend to go too hard at times, and this could be their undoing against the hosts – who have mastered the art of T20s this year.