The New Zealand cricketers' competitiveness in India after a four-month international hiatus has been a welcome tonic.

Tonight's deciding match in Kanpur presents an opportunity to turn the tour into a historic milestone by winning their first ODI series away in six attempts across 29 years.

If such a result materialises, the onus could go on Tom Latham to deliver again in his transition to the No5 wicketkeeper-batsman role.

Latham formed a 200-run match-winning partnership with Ross Taylor in the opening victory in Mumbai, a fourth-wicket ODI record for New Zealand against all countries, and the highest for any wicket against India.


The highlight of Latham's 103 not out came in his confidence against spin. He maximised the real estate within the crease like a canny property developer, and swept - and reverse swept - with aplomb.

How talented is Latham in the conditions? Put it this way: 76 New Zealanders have batted in an ODI in India; his average of 77 from seven innings is the highest for those who have batted more than three times. The next best is Nathan Astle's 47.81 from 11 outings.

In addition, he has taken two catches and conceded no byes in the opening two games, indicating the gloveman role suits.

Latham excelled in the warm-up games with 59 and 108 retired, continuing the form which saw him top the New Zealand averages with 61 in last year's five-match series.

Taylor also deserves plaudits for making 95 in Mumbai, his highest ODI score in India. The 50-over format has not always treated him kindly in the country, with an average of 31.08 and strike rate of 72 from 12 innings, but his professionalism resonated.

Taylor said the side is searching for middle order consistency, and Latham has delivered.

"Not only in the new role as keeper, but batting at five he has scored a successful fifty, hundred and hundred," Taylor said after the first match. "He employed the sweep shot to good effect over here last time in the tests. Indian batsmen have quick feet when they play spin and, traditionally, New Zealanders aren't as nimble.

"With the sweep shot, we were able to put pressure on the bowlers to adjust their lengths and I thought Tom did that outstandingly well. I told him to reverse sweep and he did it. I hope he keeps that up because he said he had never done it in a game."


The nine New Zealand squad members who headed to India this month had more than a week to acclimatise before the first ODI, and were joined by members of the New Zealand A team who had already adjusted.

That counted in their favour after spending 50 overs in the field before their successful chase in the Wankhede Stadium cauldron.

"We knew we had to get off to a good start to negate their spinners," Taylor said.

"Traditionally, New Zealand come here and struggle up front in our innings. Rotating the strike worked through the right hand-left hand combination with Tom."

Latham was aware of his responsibilities before he left for India, and has executed to plan, albeit with tonight's match providing the final barometer.

"I don't mind playing spin. I've got to come in, be busy against spin, rotate the strike and build partnerships."