For Jasprit Bumrah, hovering around the fourth stump channel has always been duck soup. Even the most technically accomplished batsmen have found the going tough when India's pace spearhead makes the cherry dance to his tunes from the 'corridor of uncertainty'.
However, the injury hiatus has considerably affected Bumrah's rhythm and efficiency. The distinguished quick looked a pale shadow of his former self at Basin Reserve, generating negligible lateral movement, serving juicy half-volleys galore and eventually finishing with just one consolation scalp. Notwithstanding batting frailties, Bumrah's incompetence hurt India dearly as their World Test Championship juggernaut hit the first roadblock.
But Tim Southee rightly mentioned during the post-match press conference, ''You can't keep good players like Bumrah down for too long." Leaving no stone unturned in his endeavor to reach the desired performance levels, the feisty quick practiced 'single-wicket bowling' under the watchful guidance of bowling coach Bharat Arun before rattling Hanuma Vihari's timber twice at the nets, Understandably, skipper Virat Kohli appeared content as the frontline speed merchant went about rediscovering his mojo, slowly but surely.
Also see – India vs New Zealand schedule
India need Bumrah to deliver the goods as much as they want Kohli to rise to the occasion. Furthermore, solid starts from Prithvi Shaw and Mayank Agarwal will hold the key for the battered tourists alongside noteworthy contributions from the flickering middle-order. The visitors face a selection dilemma too as Ravichandran Ashwin's lackluster outing has opened the door for all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja's inclusion.
The hosts have exploited the home conditions to maximum advantage and have India by the scruff of their neck. Bolstered by Neil Wagner's return, the lethal attack would be salivating at the prospect of another venomous green top at Hagley Oval. Essentially, India's heavyweights ought to shoulder responsibility and proactively counter New Zealand's unyielding attitude, otherwise, another harsh reality check might be on the cards.
Match Details: New Zealand vs India, 2nd Test
Venue: Hagley Oval, Christchurch
Date and Timings: February 29- March 4, 4:00 AM IST
What to expect: Better application from India, and typical relentlessness from New Zealand. The curators have left an unbelievable amount of grass on the surface and taking into account the significant breeze, batsmen are bound to endure a tumultuous period at the crease.
Though as the track gets baked under heat, the assistance for seamers would deplete and run-scoring should ideally get easier for batsmen willing enough to bide their time. Spinners can join the party should the deck slow down and offer turn, albeit moderate, as the game progresses. Winning the toss, and obviously bowling first, could well mean winning half the battle.
India: One important change presumed is Jadeja featuring ahead of Ashwin, purely on batting capabilities. Although the sheer wicket-taking ability and wind factor prompt for the veteran offie's retention. Ishant Sharma's tryst with ankle pain continues and his participation remains subject to fitness. Umesh Yadav will fill the vacant slot if Ishant is deemed unavailable.
Probable XI: Prithvi Shaw, Mayank Agarwal, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (c), Ajinkya Rahane, Hanuma Vihari, Rishabh Pant (wk), Ravichandran Ashwin/ Ravindra Jadeja, Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma/ Umesh Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah.
New Zealand: Neil Wagner walks into the playing eleven replacing either of Kyle Jamieson or specialist tweaker Ajaz Patel. The pitch's nature would be the final determinant, though the hosts are unlikely to unleash a four-pronged pace attack.
Probable XI: Tom Latham, Tom Blundell, Kane Williamson (c), Ross Taylor, Henry Nicholls, BJ Watling(wk), Colin de Grandhomme, Tim Southee, Kyle Jamieson/ Ajaz Patel, Trent Boult, Neil Wagner.
What they said:
“They are number one in the world for a reason and that is because they can adapt to any conditions. We are definitely expecting them to adapt pretty quickly and be positive coming into this Test match. Their records speak for themselves,” Trent Boult stresses upon India's red-ball expertise.