Stakes high as Rohit Sharma's India aim to keep T20 series alive against New Zealand

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The series is on the line for Rohit Sharma and India.

After being crushed comprehensively in the first T20 in Wellington, India will hope Auckland brings about a change in fortune when they take on hosts New Zealand in the second match of the series on Friday.

The hosts were unrelenting in the first T20 as they thoroughly outclassed the visitors by 80 runs and will be itching to clinch the series with another victory in Auckland.

As the two teams get ready for the high-stakes second T20, we take a look at what the key talking points are.

INDIA GRAPPLE WITH TEAM COMBINATION

India’s playing XI in the series opener was as unbalanced as they come with the visitors opting to go with three wicketkeepers and as many all-rounders in the clash. The result was their heaviest T20 defeat in terms of runs and stand-in skipper Rohit Sharma has plenty of tinkering to do if India are to turn the tide.

While the three wicketkeepers – MS Dhoni, Dinesh Karthik and Rishabh Pant – should keep their places for the second T20, the tourists will be tempted to drop at least one all-rounder from the trio of Hardik Pandya, Vijay Shankar and Krunal Pandya.

Bolstering of the batting department is needed and that could see young Shubman Gill make his way into the playing XI for Friday. Another change India could make is to bring in wrist-spinner Kuldeep Yadav after leaving him out of the series opener.

Changes are also expected in the fast-bowling department with Khaleel Ahmed proving expensive in Wellington.

India could bring in Shubman Gill to bolster the batting.

India could bring in Shubman Gill to bolster the batting.

KIWIS AIM TO KEEP T20 JUGGERNAUT GOING

They were comprehensively put in the shade by India in the ODI series but the Kiwis have looked like a completely different beast in the T20 series.

The 80-run win in Wellington means that New Zealand have now won seven out of their nine T20 clashes against the Indians. Kane Williamson and his men seem to have all their bases covered in the playing department and as such, they will be desperate to avenge their ODI humiliation with a series-clinching win on Friday.

The Kiwis will be wary of India’s comeback powers given how strongly they bounced back from their eight-wicket defeat in the fourth ODI and will need to ensure they do not take their foot off the pedal this time.

The only change Williamson will be tempted to make on Friday is to bring in James Neesham after leaving out the all-rounder for the series opener.

Kiwis will want to keep the winning momentum going.

The Kiwis will want to keep the winning momentum going.

ROHIT POISED FOR BIG INNINGS

The visitors will be hoping for a much bigger contribution from their stand-in skipper Rohit when they take the field.

The opening batsman was looking in excellent form in the ODI series with scores of 87 and 62 in the second and third games respectively, but he has since gone completely off the boil.

The right-hander has not even managed to gain any starts in the three matches since, aggregating a paltry total of just 10 runs. Rohit’s prowess in the limited-overs formats needs no introduction with the India man being one of the most in-form players over the past three years.

With a record four T20I tons to his name, the Kiwis will be wary of a Rohit resurgence in the remainder of the series. The 31-year-old always finds a way to bounce back into form and it remains to be seen if he can the do the same on Friday.

Rohit has been subdued in his last three innings.

Rohit has been subdued in his last three innings.

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Gayle returns as Windies announce squad for first two ODIs against England

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Gayel returns to the ODI fold for the hosts.

West Indies will welcome back Chris Gayle to the international fold when take on England in the upcoming five-match ODI series.

Having not played any ODIs since July 2018, Gayle was included in West Indies 14-man squad for the opening two clashes against England.

The Windies stalwart did not play any part on his team’s tour of India and Bangladesh last year after making himself unavailable. The left-hander had instead opted to play in the Afghanistan Premier League and T10 League held in the UAE.

Along with Gayle, Evin Lewis too makes a return to the ODI fold for the first two matches. Lewis had withdrawn from Windies’ tour of India last year and had played only the T20 leg in the clashes against Bangladesh.

While Gayle and Lewis have been recalled, hard-hitting batsman Nicholas Pooran has been handed his maiden ODI call-up after impressing in the eight T20s he has played so far.

Fast bowled Shannon Gabriel has not been included in the squad along with veteran Marlon Samuels who is currently undergoing treatment for a knee injury.

“As we continue our Cricket World Cup preparations, the upcoming series against the top ranked ODI side is a great opportunity for us to gauge where we are as a team,” Windies chairman of selectors Courtney Browne stated.

“We welcome the return of Chris Gayle who missed the last two series and Ashley Nurse from injury. We are pleased to introduce Nicholas Pooran to the ODI cricket for the first time. He is clearly a young player with undoubted talent and we believe he can add value to our middle order.

“Shannon Gabriel remains very much in our World Cup plans but with a heavy workload expected in the Test series he will be considered for selection later in the ODI series.”

West Indies and England are currently due to meet in the third and final Test of the series which begins at St. Lucia on Saturday. The hosts have already captured the series after taking an unassailable 2-0 lead with two crushing wins.

The first ODI between the two sides will take place at Bridgetown in Barbados on February 20.

WEST INDIES 14-MAN SQUAD FOR FIRST AND SECOND ODIS

Jason Holder (c), Fabian Allen, Devendra Bishoo, Darren Bravo, Chris Gayle, Shimron Hetmyer, Shai Hope, Evin Lewis, Ashley Nurse, Keemo Paul, Nicholas Pooran, Rovman Powell, Kemar Roach, Oshane Thomas.

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Nepal's Sandeep Lamichhane comes to Melbourne Stars' aid after completing BPL stint

Sudhir Gupta 7/02/2019
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Lamichhane (l) has rejoined the Melbourne Stars squad.

With a spot in the Big Bash League (BBL) semi-final on the line, the Melbourne Stars have recalled Nepal leg-spinner Sandeep Lamichhane following the completion of his Bangladesh Premier League (BPL) stint.

The Stars are due to take on Brisbane Heat on Friday at the Gabba in what is their penultimate league clash of the season and have included Lamichhane in the 13-man squad.

The Nepalese sensation played a key part in Stars’ campaign in the early part of the season with eight wickets in his four appearances before he departed to take part in the BPL.

With his BPL engagements now over, Lamichhane has answered Stars’ call in their bid to make the semi-final. In his six matches for Sylhet Sixers in the BPL, the teenager picked up four wickets at an economy-rate of less than six runs an over.

Currently perched in fourth spot in the league table, the Stars can seal their place in the top-four with victory over Brisbane Heat on Friday. Should they fail to do so, they will need to win their final league fixture against Sydney Sixers on Sunday to keep their chances alive.

Earlier this season, Lamichhane became the first Nepal player to earn a BBL contract and the 18-year-old has been drawing huge support from the Nepalese community in all his matches so far for the Stars.

Following the completion of his BBL stint, Lamichhane will prepare to make his bow in the Pakistan Super League (PSL) where he is slated to represent the Lahore Qalandars.

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