A crucial 120 world Test Championship points are on the stake as India lock horns with New Zealand in the first match of the two-match Test series at Basin Reserve, Wellington. Will the Men in Blue take a crucial lead in the series?
India are currently leading the Championship table with 360 points by virtue of their brilliant form at home. But, New Zealand has not been a happy hunting ground for the visitors as India’s famed batting line-up gets found out on the bouncy pitches and windy conditions.
New Zealand, on the other hand, are at a lowly sixth position with 60 points to their name. Similar to all the teams in the modern era, they are a force to be reckoned with in home conditions.
Their bowling attack consisting of Trent Boult, Tim Southee, and Neil Wagner is world-class and will give a tough fight to a strong Indian batting line-up, who will be a bit fidgety at the start.
RECENT FORM (Recent five matches)
New Zealand:- LLLDW
Kyle Jamieson will become New Zealand’s 279th Test player as he replaces Neil Wagner. The Black Caps would choose between Ajaj Patel and Daryl Mitchell depending on the pitch and conditions in the morning.
For the visitors, Ishant Sharma would be a welcome addition to an already impressive pace battery. If not passed fit, Umesh Yadav will come into the eleven. Wridhiman Saha will get the nod for the wicketkeeping slot given his superior prowess with the gloves.
Looking at the batting lineup in the practice match, Prithvi Shaw will most probably accompany Mayank Agarwal in opening the innings for India. Ravichandran Ashwin will fill the lone spinner’s slot.
New Zealand: Tom Latham, Tom Blundell, Kane Williamson(c), Ross Taylor, Henry Nicholls, BJ Watling(w), Colin de Grandhomme, Tim Southee, Trent Boult, Ajaz Patel/ Daryl Mitchell, and Kyle Jamieson.
India: Rohit Sharma, Mayank Agarwal, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (C), Ajinkya Rahane, Ravindra Jadeja, Wriddhiman Saha (WK), Ravichandran Ashwin, Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami, and Umesh Yadav.
Kane Williamson vs Jasprit Bumrah
Kane Williamson is the most accomplished batsman in the Black Caps side. The fourth-ranked Test batsman has exceptional batting technique and is well versed in handling any kind of bowling attack and in any condition.
The Black Cap skipper is also set to pass former captain Brendon McCullum to become New Zealand’s third-highest scorer in Tests. His wicket is one of the members of the modern-day fab four and will be the most sought after wicket in the hosts batting order.
The onus of removing New Zealand’s skipper will be in the able hands of Jasprit Bumrah. The Indian speedster has taken a five-wicket haul in each of the countries he has toured and he would like to continue the streak.
Bumrah has come leaps and bounds in the past two years as he has troubled almost every leading batsman in world cricket. Williamson is a tough nut to crack, but if Bumrah gets rid of him early, the task will certainly get easier for the Men in Blue.
Trent Boult vs Virat Kohli
Trent Boult is one of the leading bowlers of this era. The left-arm pacer boasts of a mean inswinger, which he will try to execute perfectly to get rid of the Indian skipper. The New Zealand pitches make Boult a menacing prospect to handle.
Boult along with Tim Southee has carried New Zealand’s attack for plenty of years now and the addition of Kyle Jamison will bolster their attack even more. The experienced pacer will try to make early inroads so as to bring the Indian captain early into the middle to face the swinging new ball.
Virat Kohli is the leading Test batsman currently and will be India’s best bet in putting up a good enough score to win the Test series. He will bring all his experience into play in handling the tough conditions.
The Indian skipper will be targeted by the Kiwis and he has to make sure that he leads by example to allow India to win an away Test series. If he is successful, it will be India’s first Test series win in New Zealand since 2009.
The Basin Reserve has a history of favouring the side bowling second as they have won 27 matches out of the 63 that have been played at the venue. But, India has an equally well-balanced pace attack if not better than the Kiwis and this will be a well-contested series.
The Indian batsmen have also been fairly consistent away from home. Led by the brilliant Virat Kohli, they are a part of the strongest Indian line-up to tour these shores and they will surely start at favourites.
New Zealand are also well-stocked in the bowling department. Ross Taylor, who is set to become the first cricketer to play 100 matches in all three formats of the game, along with Williamson will also put up a strong fight.
After considering all the points, Cricwizz believes that India will narrowly clinch victory in the first Test match of the series and will further increase their lead in the ICC World Test Championship table.