India would be hurting after the series whitewash in the ODIs and would be looking to get back to the winning streak in the Test series starting on Thursday at the Basin Reserve, Wellington.
India have been in a total domination mode in Test matches since the start of the World Test Championship (WTC) and it’s no surprise that they are leading the WTC points table (360 points) by a fair margin.
New Zealand (60 points), on the other hand, have lost four out of the five matches they have played in the WTC and are nowhere in the finals’ race at the moment.
The Kiwis would be aiming a clean-sweep against India in the Test matches as well, which will provide some sort of lifeline to their campaign and will keep their hopes alive in the World Test Championship.
New Zealand do have an upper hand in their own conditions, but achieving a 2-0 result against this Indian team will be extremely difficult considering the kind of cricket India have been playing in the longest format of late.
There are a couple of Indian batters who are still susceptible against the moving ball, but they have drastically improved against pace and bounce and if New Zealand don’t make inroads with the new ball, they might find themselves in the field for a long, long time.
India have a few selection decisions to make, but they have so much of quality in the squad that whoever plays eventually would bring vast array of skill-set to the table.
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Date: February 20-24, 2020
Time: 03:30 AM (IST)
Venue: Basin Reserve, Wellington
The conditions might be overcast on the second and the third day of the game and the ball might swing. Both teams have got quality fast bowlers, but most of the fast bowlers India have got are seam bowlers, while New Zealand have got Trent Boult who is the best exponent of swing bowling in the world at the moment.
If Boult takes the new ball with the overhead conditions favouring him, he might turn out be very tricky to handle. Despite the possibility of the weather being cloudy for a decent chunk of the game, there are no chances of any rain at any stage.
The pitch at Basin Reserve has always had grass and it’s likely to be the same again, but it will be a drop-in pitch and it won’t develop as much of wear and tear as the game progresses.
It will remain hard and true and as the grass burns down on third and fourth day, the pitch might stop assisting the fast bowlers. The spinners won’t get any sort of purchase out of this surface either.
India: Shubman Gill failed in both the innings of the warm-up game and he might have to wait for his Test debut. India might prefer Prithvi Shaw ahead of Gill, as he looked good in the second innings against New Zealand XI at Seddon Park. Hanuma Vihari might play as an extra batsman at no. 6.
Since Ishant Sharma doesn’t have a lot of game time under his belt, India might go with Umesh Yadav as the third pacer, along with Mohammed Shami and Jasprit Bumrah.
Navdeep Saini is also an option for India, but the team management might go with Umesh as he can swing the new ball upfront. Ravindra Jadeja might be the lone specialist spinner for India, with Hanuma Vihari being the part-time off-spinner.
New Zealand: The hosts don’t have selection headaches going into the game. Tom Blundell has cemented his place at the top of the order on the back of his performances in Australia and he will open the batting with Tom Latham.
Henry Nicholls will bat at no. 5, while the 6th and the 7th spot will be occupied by the wicket-keeper batsman BJ Watling and the all-rounder Colin de Grandhomme respectively. Ajaz Patel, who has been picked ahead of Mitchell Santner, will play as the specialist spinner, with Trent Boult, Tim Southee, and Neil Wagner being the pace bowling trio.
India have played some outstanding cricket overseas in the recent times, but New Zealand are an incredibly strong Test team in their own conditions. While it’s supposed to be a closely fought encounter, New Zealand might prove to be a slightly better side in the first Test. The prediction is for New Zealand to win the Test match and take a 1-0 lead in the series.
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Online: HotstarPublished 18 Feb 2020, 14:48 IST