New Zealand's ODI series against India begins at Hamilton' Seddon Park today, with the Black Caps needing a win to avoid making unwanted history. Niall Anderson runs through all you need to know ahead of the three-match series.
Is another series sweep on the cards?
Quite possibly! While the 5-0 drubbing in the Twenty20 series wasn't as bad as the scoreline suggests – the Black Caps could have won the series if not for some horrendous death batting – the disparity between the two teams could be more defined in the 50-over format. The bookmakers have an Indian series sweep priced at $2.30, the slight favourite ahead of an Indian 2-1 triumph, at $2.50.
More losses would surely put the Black Caps close to a record losing streak?
If you go across all formats, it's now eight defeats on the trot, following the three test thrashings in Australia. A defeat today will tie New Zealand's worst losing streak this century – in 2002, where they lost nine in a row – and a loss in Auckland on Saturday would make it a record-equalling 10, tying the historic incompetence of 1994-1995, where defeats to South Africa, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the West Indies saw a losing streak hit double digits for the first and only time in New Zealand cricket history. Lose all three ODIs, and the unwanted record is theirs to keep – with two tests against the world's best side still to come.
At least they'll have a better chance of victory in the ODIs than the tests. Remember the World Cup?
Of course, but the Black Caps have a major problem - the three fast bowlers who were so superb at the World Cup aren't playing in this series. Trent Boult (broken hand), Matt Henry (broken thumb) and Lockie Ferguson (calf strain) are all out injured, and they were the catalysts of that famous victory in the World Cup semifinal.
Instead, the Black Caps have to lean on four seamers who have played a total of one ODI since last February. Tim Southee, Hamish Bennett, Scott Kuggeleijn and Kyle Jamieson will make up the Black Caps' seam attack, and you have to imagine India's top order are much more comfortable with the prospect of facing that inexperienced attack, as opposed to the seamers who reduced them to 24-4 seven months ago.
Which of those bowlers will play today?
That will be a tough call. As the experienced campaigner, Southee is likely to play despite his Twenty20 struggles, but the other three seamers may be fighting for one spot. Ish Sodhi was included in the ODI squad for just the first match, indicating potential use on the Seddon Park wicket, while with Mitchell Santner, Colin de Grandhomme and Jimmy Neesham, the Black Caps could opt for two spinners and two all-rounders. Regardless of make-up, with Kuggeleijn and Jamieson both handy lower-order batsmen, the Black Caps should at least be able to bat deep.
What about the batsmen – Can they make up for their poor showings in the Twenty20?
Until yesterday, it looked like the Black Caps could roll out the same top eight that they used in the crunch World Cup clashes – Martin Guptill, Henry Nicholls, Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor, Tom Latham, Jimmy Neesham, Colin de Grandhomme and Mitchell Santner.
However, Williamson was ruled out of the first two ODIs yesterday, unable to overcome a shoulder injury. His replacement – Mark Chapman – will be in a race with Tom Blundell to take a spot in the middle order, most likely as a direct swap with Williamson at No 3.
How about India? Will they have a similar team to the World Cup?
No, but it will be similar to their Twenty20 side. From their XI in that semifinal at the World Cup, Dinesh Karthik, Hardik Pandya, MS Dhoni and Bhuvneshwar Kumar won't feature in the ODIs, but the potential blow came with news that Rohit Sharma has been ruled out of the remainder of the tour after suffering a calf injury in the final Twenty20. Losing a player of his calibre – 29 ODI centuries at an average of 49.2 – is an undoubted blow, but this being India, they can just call upon 20-year-old sensation Prithvi Shaw, who scored a century on test debut and recently cracked 150 in a one-dayer against New Zealand A.
The rest of India's big threats – Virat Kohli, Jasprit Bumrah, Ravindra Jadeja, Mohammed Shami, KL Rahul, etc – are all fit and ready to go.
Alright, how do I follow the series opener?
You can follow all the coverage live on nzherald.co.nz, with our live blog getting underway at 2.30 before the first ball from Seddon Park at 3.00pm. Radio Sport will have live commentary, and live streaming is available in New Zealand via Sky Sport Now.