New Zealand demolished India in the opening Test match of their series in Wellington last week and on Saturday they will go in search of a series win and another valuable bunch of points towards their World Test Championship total when the two teams meet in Christchurch.
India head into this second match knowing it is one they have to win if they are going to level up the series. They will also be looking to increase their lead at the top of the WTC standings so they have plenty to play for.
Very rarely in a two match series do you get a perfect performance from a side given the pressure not to lose that is on each game, but that is exactly what New Zealand delivered in that opening game, and with them having a share of the series in the bag, giving them a little more freedom in their play for this game, we should probably expect much more of the same, if not an even more complete performance if that is possible.
New Zealand have always been hard to beat in their own conditions but what was encouraging in that opening match was that even when they were missing one of their star bowlers, they were still able to deliver the goods. If you wanted to be picky you could point out that there were two of three New Zealand batsmen who made starts in Wellington but didn’t convert them into big totals but to skittle India for less than 200 twice is a really good effort.
It shouldn’t take the Indians long to work out where they went wrong in the first match, which is near enough the only positive they can take from their showing. They have to bat better. They can’t have any arguments with their bowlers. They kept New Zealand below 400 in better batting conditions but they are going to need help from their batters if they are going to contribute to a series levelling effort.
India looked all at sea against a moving ball in that opening match, and while historically that is nothing new, in recent times they looked to have solved that problem. There is some inexperience in this batting line up which allows them a little slack but there is no excuse for their experienced middle order. It is them who are needed to step up to the plate and put the kind of score on the board that gives India a chance of a win here.
Neil Wagner is back for New Zealand so the question is whether they want to go in with Ajaz Patel or take out the spinner completely and bring him in for what would be an unlucky to be left out Kyle Jamieson. Tom Blundell is fit at the top of the order.
India may well be forced into a change with the news that Ishant Sharma is suffering with pain in his ankle. That will be a blow after his performance in the first game. Umesh Yadav is set to come in for him while Ravi Jadeja is being pondered in place of R Ashwin by the selectors.
There have been six previous Test matches on a Hagley Oval ground that is becoming one of the best grounds in New Zealand. The home side certainly enjoy playing there as they have won four of those previous six, with a draw and a solitary loss to Australia. India play here for the first time so while they have no battle scars they may be unsure of what to expect at the venue.
Much like the Basin Reserve used in the last game, this pitch tends to have plenty in it for the bowlers initially but by the time the match reaches the halfway mark in time it flattens out completely and becomes excellent for the batsmen before finally bringing the spinners into play late on in the piece. There is something for everyone at some point so the test early on is avoiding being shot out to set up the game.
I’ll go with a couple of bets in this match. The first is on the performance of Trent Boult, which is interestingly lined up with a target of 110.5. I say that is interesting because he scored 138 in the first game despite offering little in the first innings, and he has a decent record on this ground. He has played in all six matches here and has taken five or more wickets in five of them. Five wickets might be all we are after with his ability of swinging the willow and taking catches in the field but a sixth wicket certainly wouldn’t be out of the question on this ground. Boult is a key man for New Zealand and I fancy he can cover that line for the second time in the series.
There is no guarantee that Ravi Jadeja plays in this match but if he does then the 33/1 on him to top score for India in the first innings is a big price. 46 was the top score in the first innings in the opening match of the series so on a similar level Jadeja might not have too much to beat, especially if India bat in the opening innings of the match with the grass on the pitch live enough to move the ball around. By the time Jadeja would be at the crease the ball shouldn’t be moving as much. He is technically good enough to get himself in and from there who knows. I’ll pay to see how he gets on.
WON – Back T.Boult’s Performance – Over 110.5pts for a 4/10 stake at 1.85 with 888sport
Back R.Jadeja Top India 1st Inns Batsman for a 1/10 stake at 34.00 with Betfair
Back him here: