After all the limited overs matches have been concluded, New Zealand and India concentrate on the World Test Championship on Friday when they meet in the first of two Test matches that concludes the tour for Virat Kohli and his men.
India dominated the T20s and New Zealand the ODIs so it will be interesting to see who, if either, comes out on top in the purest format of the game, with this first Test taking place in Wellington before we move to Christchurch next week.
Given that the ODIs came after the T20s, if such a thing as momentum is apparent in sport, it is New Zealand who have it heading into this series. I say that because not only were they the most recent but that is probably the format closest to this one. They are also extremely difficult to beat in their own conditions, which should give them even more confidence going into a series which they need something from as they currently sit outside the top four in the World Test Championship table.
New Zealand are very effective at home. They had an attack that plays their conditions exceptionally well and a batting line up, which might not be the flashiest known to man, but they all know their roles and they perform them to the best of their ability without fail. It means you have to play exceptionally well for all five days to beat them, and that isn’t necessarily as easy or as automatic as it sounds.
If you look at the World Test Championship table you will see India have played seven matches under this umbrella and they have won them all, and with 360 points to their name they are already well on the way to the latter stages of the event. This is a format they have been keen to take seriously in recent times and their results have shown not just the work they have put in, but how effective they are.
There was once a time when India would only go well in their home conditions, but that is no longer the case, however there are still one or two doubters over them, which should give them plenty of fuel in their fire to perform here. We know India can go toe to toe with anyone in the batting department even in these conditions but historically it would have been with the ball that issues would have arose. That is no longer the case though.
Neil Wagner will miss this match due to him waiting for the birth of his child, which is a blow to New Zealand. Kyle Jamieson is expected to replace him leaving the other decision being whether Daryl Mitchell or Ajaz Patel plays but spin doesn’t have the best record at the Basin Reserve so Mitchell would appear in front.
India are hopeful that Ishant Sharma is going to be available to feature in this match but doubts still remain over whether he’ll get through the full five days. They could go with Umesh Yadav instead. R Ashwin would appear in pole position for the spinning spot even though Ravi Jadeja had an excellent limited overs showing.
There have been 63 previous Test matches on this quaint and beautiful ground and New Zealand have played in all of them. They don’t necessarily have the best record here though with just 19 wins to 20 losses and 24 draws. India don’t have a great record here either though. They have only won one of their seven games, drawing two and losing four so it is hard to know which side history would be on!
There is nearly always something in this pitch which makes for competitive cricket but can lead to slow scoring rates. Only one team has put up more than 300 batting first here in the last six games, although the pitch does become good for batting on during day 2, 3 and 4. Then the bowlers come back into the game so we should be in for a really interesting game of cricket.
I’ll go with two bets to get the series started. Mohammed Shami took three wickets in the warm up match and I think he’ll be a real menace on this pitch both with the new ball and when it starts to reverse swing so I like the look of the over on his performance at 88.5pts. That needs five wickets but if he scores nine runs in the match or takes a catch that comes down to four wickets, which is very much manageable for someone with his skills. This is the sort of pitch he should be a right handful on so I’ll go over there.
The new ball is renowned for taking wickets on this ground, especially in the first innings of the match, so it could pay to go for someone in one of the middle orders to make the top score up front. India have a lot of star batsmen but you wouldn’t truly back any of their top four against a seaming or swinging ball if New Zealand get it right to begin with. That makes me think the 14/1 on Haruma Vihari to top score could be massive. In First-class cricket he averages a smidgeon under 60 and in New Zeamand he has scored 51, 100* and 59 in matches for India A and then retired out on 101 in the warm up match for this series. He looks a serious player who already has a 50 in England and a ton and two more 50s in the Caribbean in just seven Tests. He’s overpriced for me.
Back M.Shami’s Performance – Over 88.5pts for a 4/10 stake at 1.83 with Betfair
Back him here:
Back H.Vihari Top India 1st Inns Batsman for a 1/10 stake at 15.00 with Sky Bet