India vs New Zealand Prediction: Who will win today's 1st Test match?

India v New Zealand - ICC World Test Championship Final: Reserve Day
India v New Zealand - ICC World Test Championship Final: Reserve Day
Sai Krishna

On June 23, as the reserve day of the inaugural World Test Championship final was all set to transpire in Southampton, India had eight wickets in hand and a 32-run lead. With Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli at the crease, the competition's most successful team, with five series wins and 520 points, were in with a real chance of saving the Test or maybe even pulling off another red-ball miracle.

Unfortunately for India, their dreams of ending their ICC trophy hunt under Virat Kohli took a massive knife to the heart early in the first session. A clinical New Zealand bowling performance ensured that India were bowled out before tea, after which Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor showed nerves of steel to take the Kiwis over the line in the final session of the reserve day.

Since then, a lot of cricket has been played by both sides and they will know just how different the situation is. A two-Test series will be played between India and New Zealand, with the ignominy of the one-match knockout expelled from their minds. The venue will shift from Southampton's greenery to the Green Park Stadium in Kanpur, where pacers get more assistance than most grounds in the subcontinent.

Despite India and New Zealand being without several key players, the intensity of a tightly fought Test series in the new World Test Championship cycle is bound to be felt across the world. Even without names like Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, KL Rahul and Rishabh Pant, India are a formidable white-ball side. And even though New Zealand haven't won a Test in India for over three decades, they will know that the side they've morphed into over the last few years cannot be taken lightly in any conditions.

The first Test between India and New Zealand will commence on Thursday, November 25. There isn't a reserve day this time, and surely one isn't needed anyway?

India vs New Zealand 1st Test: Rahane in the spotlight as Kanpur classic beckons

India Nets Session
India Nets Session

Ajinkya Rahane was India's highest individual scorer in the World Test Championship final, but that feels like ages ago. The Indian stand-in skipper is arguably only in the Test side because Kohli and Rohit have been rested and is fighting to prolong what has been a patchy career. In the absence of several first-choice batters, the pressure on Rahane and his vice-captain Cheteshwar Pujara will be immense.

Rahane has struggled at home recently, with his shortcomings against spin landing him in hot water very often. With the top five consisting of names like Shubman Gill, Mayank Agarwal and Shreyas Iyer, none of whom are experienced in Test cricket, the 33-year-old has a lot on his plate. Can he deliver for his country? You could argue that the fate of the Kanpur Test rests on the same.

Welcomingly for India, their bowling attack is set to cause New Zealand all sorts of problems. Ravichandran Ashwin and Axar Patel gave a sneak peek into what the Test series might look like in the preceding T20Is, while Ravindra Jadeja will be itching to get back in the mix after missing out on the England Tests. India can't go wrong with any of Mohammed Siraj, Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav, and the likely two pacers who are picked in the playing XI will relish playing in Kanpur, where pacers have both a lower average and a lower strike rate than spinners.

Meanwhile, New Zealand need to find a way to squeeze some spin potential out of what is a talented squad. Without Trent Boult and Colin de Grandhomme (rested), Devon Conway (injured) and BJ Watling (retired), the Blackcaps have a few holes to fill. But with three fairly decent spinners in Ajaz Patel, Mitchell Santner and William Sommerville, along with part-time options in Glenn Phillips, Rachin Ravindra and Kane Williamson, they will be able to put up a fight.

Tom Blundell should slot into the playing XI as Watling's replacement, while gritty southpaws Tom Latham and Henry Nicholls will look to keep their consistent Test form going. Experienced heads like Neil Wagner and Ross Taylor will prove invaluable for New Zealand, who always manage to find a way when the odds are stacked against them.

However, beating India at home is no mean feat, and the records are proof enough of the same. Even though the hosts are nowhere near full strength, New Zealand should be out of their depth in Kanpur. Rahane can be backed to keep his undefeated run as India's Test skipper intact.

Prediction: India to win the 1st Test against New Zealand

Edited by Sai Krishna
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