The New Zealand international summer gets underway on Friday morning, or Thursday evening if you live in the UK, and it does so when the home side host the West Indies in the first of two Test matches.
The West Indies will be looking to cause something of an upset over the course of the two matches while New Zealand will be aiming to build some confidence going into the rest of the series they play this summer.
This will be the first Test match that New Zealand have played since March. Amazingly in this congested world of international cricket we currently live in the Kiwis have managed to spend nine months playing just limited overs stuff and in fairness they’ve not played much of that either so all eyes will be on them to see how rusty they are.
We know New Zealand can be tough to beat in their own conditions but they are not without their issues going into the series. They have not been able to nail down the number six and seven roles for a while now and while Jeet Raval had a good beginning to his international career he needs to kick on and be counted now.
The West Indies have been pretty active in Test cricket in recent times and they have been showing signs of improvement too. They will need to improve again on what they have shown recently to win this match, I believe, but they are likely to have conditions which will suit their bowling attack and that makes any West Indies side dangerous.
The interesting thing throughout both the matches in this series will be how West Indies go with the bat. Stuart Law has assembled a talented young core of batsmen who have all shown their talent individually at different times. He will be hoping they can start to gel together and put up the scores which will make them extremely competitive.
New Zealand will be without a couple of key men for this opening match of the summer. BJ Watling misses out with injury while Tim Southee is on parental leave. Watling will be replaced by the debutant Tom Blundell while Matt Henry replaces Southee.
West Indies will make at least one change to the side we saw in England with Kyle Hope being replace by Sunil Ambris who had a wonderful knock in a warm up match. The other decision is whether to play Devendra Bishoo or Miguel Cummins.
The picturesque Basin Reserve in Wellington is the venue to get the series underway. This will be the 61st match to be held on this ground but it is not New Zealand’s best one statistically. They have played all 60 previous matches here but only won 17 and lost 20. There have been 23 draws. West Indies haven’t enjoyed it either. They have two wins and four defeats from seven outings.
The wicket here is usually good for batting after the green grass has worn off on the opening morning. Batting can be tough on the first day but the wicket really flattens out and brings everyone into play so it is a good cricket wicket.
Given that New Zealand could be a little rusty in Test match cricket having not played one for so long and that they are missing a couple of key players, especially Tim Southee who would love to bowl here, I think West Indies could be in with a chance here at a decent price.
They would need things to go right such as the toss and things but we’ve seen when that happens they can be more than competitive. Without Southee, I don’t think there is much difference in the two attacks but with Nicholls not fully convincing at this level and a debutant at six it could be that West Indies have a batting edge when you consider Holder will bat at eight for them. At 13/2 I think they are overpriced and worth a chance.
The absence of Southee is likely to make Trent Boult even more important here and as such I think his performance is worth taking. His line is 103.5 which requires five wickets and a few runs. He has never had a wicketless innings on this ground and only once has he not bagged two in an innings. With no Southee you would think his workload would be greater so I expect that line to be covered.
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