After trading whitewashes in the shorter formats, New Zealand and India gear up for the real action as the two sides begin in a two-Test match series with the first one starting in Wellington from Friday.
This series is part of the ICC World Test Championship and will be crucial for both sides in terms of points. India are top of the standings with 360 points, while New Zealand are sixth with 60 points in the tally.
Premier batsman Ross Taylor will be playing his 100th Test match, making him the first player in history to play 100 matches in each of the three formats. Regardless, it will be the opening duo of Tom Latham and Tom Blundell who will be crucial to thwart the opening exchanges. As always, captain Kane Williamson will be vital for his side’s chances.
Question marks remain over the availability of Neil Wagner, as he awaits the birth of his child. Matt Henry is on stand-by, but the lanky Kyle Jamieson could be set for a debut. The Kiwis, of course, have the returning Trent Boult and Tim Southee to lead their bowling.
The visitors played a three-day practice match without getting much clarity on their openers. Mayank Agarwal’s lack of runs might not force a change, while Prithvi Shaw remains a stronger choice rather than Shubman Gill. Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane will be vital for India’s chances, as their technique will come in handy under testing conditions.
It is in the bowling, however, where India look a stronger outfit. Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav remain a formidable unit. Ishant Sharma might be too early to play the match, considering his late arrival in New Zealand.
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New Zealand have a very strong home record and should be confident of starting the series well. They are back to full strength, other than Wagner, who might miss the match. Regardless, New Zealand are very strong and will fancy their chances against India. Especially since the visitors always start their away series slowly. It could be a test of India’s batting, especially the openers, as New Zealand will look to take advantage of their fragility in swinging conditions. This match could boil down to who bowls first, as that gives a huge advantage to either side.
History & Statistics
- India have won only one of their last 18 Tests in New Zealand (W1, D10, L7).
India haven’t won in Wellington since their only win here in February, 1968 (D2, L4) including drawing the last two.
New Zealand are unbeaten at home since losing to South Africa in March 2017 (W7, D4).
New Zealand have lost only home Test since November 2016 (W11, D5, L1).The team batting second has won the last five matches at this venue, excluding the draws.
Ross Taylor averages 64.52 at this venue in 13 Tests, with 3×100 and 8×50 in 21 innings. He has scored at least 35 in each of his last six innings here, with 2×50 1×100 and 1×200.
Virat Kohli has had a nightmare ODI tour so far, but will be eager to make the Test whites count. The last time, however, when he played here, Kohli scored 38 & 105*.