Blazing bats braced for another big day out
After the pyrotechnics of recent days the mind boggles as to how high New Zealand's and India's batting lineups can go in Hamilton, part two.
Fresh from a tie in one of the most gripping one-day internationals played in New Zealand, both sides now face the rather large task of trying to better it in today's fourth ODI at Seddon Park where a memorable series win again beckons for the hosts and orange t-shirt wearers will be on high alert.
One certainty is that bowlers will be nervous and batsmen licking their lips after the teams combined to plunder 548 off 83.3 overs, a run rate of 6.6 on the same strip six d ays ago.
Asked what a par total would be, New Zealand gloveman Luke Ronchi offered: "Maybe 300. So far every game here has been high scoring and I'm expecting another one the way things are going."
West Indies set the bar high in the series decider on January 8, racking up 363-4 as New Zealand's bowlers crumbled.
It suggests batting first is a good option, one New Zealand used to their advantage last Wednesday when they posted 271-7 off 42 overs. Rain during their innings saw the tourists' target boosted to 297 off 42, and they fell 15 runs short of Duckworth-Lewis par. Fine weather and a full 50-over contest is expected today.
India's MS Dhoni called correctly at the coin toss in all three matches and bowled first. He backs his side to chase down any total on the small New Zealand grounds, as they so nearly did to 314 at Eden Park when Ravindra Jadeja could only manage a single off Corey Anderson's final delivery.
It means the series blueprint could continue into a fourth match with New Zealand setting a total of 300-plus and trying to restrict.
In the early days of Brendon McCullum's captaincy the Black Caps were known as a team who liked to chase, but this series has changed things as a confident batting lineup found its feet.
Ronchi saw no need to mess with what was largely successful as New Zealand had raced to 2-0 up before Saturday's thriller, with confident batsmen who were clear in their roles.
"The gameplan we have is working out well with guys batting through the middle then we've got our hitters at the end. If we win a toss, things might change but at the moment that's the way we have to play and we're comfortable with the way it's working and hopefully that will continue."
New Zealand looked on target for 340-plus at Eden Park before losing their way late in the innings with run outs and poor shot selection. It was much a factor in not nailing an early series win as their late fielding blunders in India's whirlwind chase where Jadeja and Ravi Ashwin helped blast 137 off the final 15 overs.
"On New Zealand grounds the boundaries are small so you have to be precise with what you're bowling. Whether it's a bouncer or a slower ball or a yorker you have to execute it well. Batsmen on both teams at the moment, if you miss it's going a long way," Ronchi said.
"It's one thing both sides are trying to perfect but also it's blimmin' hard to perfect it when you're playing a ground that's so small a mis-hit can go for six."
New Zealand were still confident and in a good frame of mind to seal the series with a match to spare today, Ronchi said.
On the slower Hamilton pitch, New Zealand paceman Kyle Mills comes back into contention but it's again a tough selection decision, with Hamish Bennett demanding inclusion after an impressive comeback and the wicket of Virat Kohli.
India, meanwhile, feel their tour is back on track and ooze confidence they can win in Hamilton and Wellington to square the five-match series.
"That's the best point we can take forward, in terms of saying, we've not really played our best game yet," Ashwin said.
"The standards that we've set for ourselves have been quite high, in terms of what we've achieved over the last year or so."
New Zealand (likely): Martin Guptill, Jesse Ryder, Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor, Brendon McCullum (captain), Corey Anderson, Luke Ronchi, Nathan McCullum, Tim Southee, Mitchell McClenaghan, Hamish Bennett.
India (likely): Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Suresh Raina, MS Dhoni (captain), Ravindra Jadeja, Ravi Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Varun Aaron.
Umpires: Rod Tucker (Australia), Gary Baxter (NZ). Third umpire: Billy Bowden (NZ).