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Pressure on Kiwis to level series against India

Brimming with confidence, India will be looking to extend their 1-0 lead in the third one-day international against New Zealand in Christchurch today. Listen to podcastaudio

cricket Updated: Mar 08, 2009 10:55 IST

Mahendra Singh Dhoni insists that he and his team do not worry about what they cannot control — the toss and the weather, for example — but they would have to be inhuman not to have felt a surge of happiness as they arrived in Christchurch on Saturday. The skies were clear blue and there was not a cloud in sight. All that remains for this decidedly Indian weather is to hold for one more day, but naturally there is no guarantee of any such thing
happening.

Each of the first two ODIs have been affected by rain, the second one at Wellington comprehensively so. Given just how well India have batted, they would be the more disappointed team at the end of the last washout. Even so, given that the series has now been effectively reduced to four matches, the pressure on the Kiwis to win the next game at any cost has increased.

What has helped the Indian cause greatly is the fact that the conditions on this tour have been nothing like their depressing visit in 2003. The pitches have been largely true and hard, and even though they have not been devoid of assistance for quick bowlers, they have rewarded quality batting.

With some of the boundaries being remarkably short — none more so than the one at square-leg at the AMI Stadium, the venue for the third ODI — there has been little margin for error for the bowlers. Occasionally, even mis-hits sail over the ropes at these venues and, taking this into account, India would dearly want Ishant Sharma back in harness. But given his lack of net bowling and the fact that it would be a risk to rush him back into the side, he is unlikely to figure in the third ODI.

The other injury scare for the Indians came in the form of Virender Sehwag briefly asking for a runner in the second ODI, but that can be put down to cramps. Sehwag’s exemplary batting at the top of the order has left the Kiwis searching for answers, and Dhoni will want to keep that trend going for as long as possible.

For New Zealand, Brendon McCullum is still recovering from a bruised thumb and this should give Peter McGlashan another go behind the stumps. Their main concern is the manner in which India's batsmen have gone after the likes of Kyle Mills and Iain O' Brien. Ian Butler, delivering back of a length and slanting the ball into the right-handers, has exerted some measure of control, as has Daniel Vettori. But the other bowlers need to learn quickly, or this series may be over even before it began for the home team.