Vadodara: Bolstered by the return of pace spearhead Zaheer Khan, India would look to stamp their superiority and clinch the five-match series against New Zealand with a third straight victory in the third cricket one-dayer here on Saturday.
A series triumph at the Reliance Stadium tomorrow would not only be a morale boost for India ahead of the forthcoming tour of South Africa and the World Cup after that but would also keep the team entrenched in second spot in the ICC rankings behind leaders Australia.
That India finds itself in this happy situation despite the absence of key players Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag and Harbhajan Singh, is an indication of the team`s resilience and bench strength though they are playing at home.
Skipper Gautam Gambhir and in-form batsman Virat Kohli are certainties in the team, but the absence of the leading lights has allowed a few others like Murali Vijay, Yusuf Pathan and Ravichandran Ashwin to try and perform, and they have done with varied degrees of success.
The selectors are using the series to try out different players in the run-up to the 2011 World Cup and have rested Shantakumaran Sreesanth with an eye on the South Africa Test series starting on December 16 after the temperamental and injury-prone pace bowler seemed to have rediscovered his rhythm with a haul of seven wickets in the first two ties.
Pace spearhead Zaheer Khan has been brought back for tomorrow`s encounter, which New Zealand must win to keep the series alive, to ease him back into big-time cricket following a spell of rest and recuperation from his injury.
Indian batting has clicked in stunning fashion in the first two matches, a day affair in Guwahati followed by a day/night one at Jaipur, and the bright aspect for the hosts is that it had achieved success both when setting and chasing targets.
The 40-run victory in the first ODI in the Assam capital, riding on Kohli`s masterly hundred backed up by some good bowling, came after setting a target.
The thumping eight-wicket win in the Pink City was after a successful run chase with captain Gambhir providing the major spark with a superb 138 not out and Kohli providing his Delhi colleague with excellent support by striking a half century.
These two batsmen and left-hander Yuvraj Singh, slowly getting into his groove after being ignored for the Test series, have been the fulcrum on which the Indian batting has performed in the first two ties, and the hosts would be looking up to the likes of Vijay and Yusuf Pathan to put in better efforts than they have done so far.