West Indies begin a full tour of New Zealand on Friday (Thursday evening UK time) with the action beginning with a Test series. Sadly it is only a two match series but both sides go on to other things in the New Year so it is understandable.
With the limited overs matches to come both sides will want to lay a marker down ahead of those matches. Both teams have plenty to prove in the longer format of the game too which should make these two matches more competitive.
1st Test: 1-5 Dec at Wellington
2nd Test: 9-13 Dec at Hamilton
It is a big year for New Zealand with Pakistan to come after Christmas and then further into the New Year, England are over for a Test series so they will be looking to go start as they mean to go on here. It has been almost a year since New Zealand were in action in this format of the game but in a two match series they will need to hit the ground running.
The Kiwis are building up a decent record in series on their own patch which should encourage them going into the series. While this is on paper the easiest of the three red ball challenges they face in the coming months they should not take their eye off the ball else they could slip up and there is no room for that.
We saw in the English summer that West Indies are a side in transition in this format of the game but we also saw that they are improving steadily and that was further enhanced when they won a series in Zimbabwe recently. This will be a decent test of their credentials but if they can perform with spirit and passion they might spring a surprise.
The key will be what West Indies can offer with the bat but we saw at Headingley in the summer that if they are given a chance to win a match the chances are they will take it. They just need to find some consistency in their game because when they are good they play very well but when they are bad they are terrible.
Head to Head
These two nations have played each other in 16 previous Test series. New Zealand have triumphed in six of them with West Indies victorious in the same number. There have been four drawn series between the two as well.
They are pretty evenly matched in the solo matches department too. Both sides have won 13 matches and there have been 19 draws so if you look at history the statistics suggest this will be a closely fought series.
I’m reluctant to get too involved in two match series because a massive session either way in either match can heavily distort things. In truth that is the same with the player markets too but I do like one man which can form the basis of a punt.
Shai Hope showed all of his class in England when he scored a pair of tons in that Headingley win. Since then he has scored 90* against Zimbabwe and he already has a ton on this tour. With the quality of the new ball attack New Zealand are going to provide here I worry a little for Kraigg Brathwaite despite really rating him. Hope is unlikely to face the full brunt of that so at 5/2 he’s my pick to be the leading runscorer for the tourists.
Back S.Hope Top West Indies Series Batsman for a 2/10 stake at 3.50 with William Hill