The ongoing series between India and New Zealand has boiled down to the fifth and final match of the contest, which will act as the decider. After New Zealand played some brilliant cricket to defeat India in the fourth ODI, all eyes have turned to Vizag, where the fifth ODI will be played on Saturday.
There is a serious need for India to take their game a notch higher against the Black Caps, who will walk into this game confident. India, who might not have been in their full strength for the series, will need all their players to deliver the goods in the fifth ODI if they are to win the series.
Here is a look at the key clashes from the fifth ODI, which could spice up the Ind-NZ battle.
Ajinkya Rahane vs Tim Southee
With Rohit Sharma out of touch so far in the series, India will hope for a solid start from Rahane, who scored a wonderful 57 runs in the last match. The right-hander will need to provide a solid base for the batsmen to follow, which comprises MS Dhoni, Virat Kohli and others. If Rahane holds his end and allows other batsmen to score runs briskly, New Zealand will be in all sorts of trouble. Hence, Southee needs to dismiss the batsman as early as possible. Southee bowls in the right areas, and if there is anything in the pitch for the bowlers to exploit with the new ball, he can be dangerous.
MS Dhoni vs Mitchell Santner
The India ODI captain holds an important role in the middle order, and even more with the lack of experienced batsmen like Manish Pandey and Kedar Jadhav. Irrespective of what number he comes to bat in, he needs to play the finishers role, and stay at the batting crease for as long as possible. The longer he stays, India's chances of winning the series also increases. Santner, in the middle overs, will not make it any easy for him to score. One has witnessed the slow-left arm stifle India batsmen for runs, and eventually piling up pressure, leading to a wicket.
Hardik Pandya vs Martin Guptill
The New Zealand opener might not have been brilliant in the first three matches, but he sprung back to form in the fourth ODI, scoring 72 runs, which helped the visitors receive a great start. Guptill will hope to play a similar innings in the fifth ODI, score quick runs, and take the game to the India bowlers. Pandya needs to dismiss him as early as possible, as Guptill has the special ability to take the game away in no time. Pandya, with his variety, and Guptill playing his shots, will be an interesting head-to-head contest.
Ross Taylor vs Amit Mishra
Taylor is one of those batsmen, who has looked good for New Zealand and got decent starts, but has failed to convert it into meaningful scores. He is a good player against spin bowling, and does not mind taking the aerial route when needed. With Taylor set to bat in the middle order, he will have to face the trickery and mastery of Mishra, who has already dismissed the batsman twice in the series. Hence, Taylor might also be plotting revenge, drawing plans against Mishra while the bowler will look to clean up the batsman for the third time in the series.