New Zealand vs India, 1st Test Preview: Chance for the visitors to breach the Kiwi fortress
Kiwis come into this series after having been humbled 0-3 by the Australians but they are a different beast altogether in their home conditions.
Updated - Feb 20, 2020 12:58 pm
In this day and age where bilateral limited-overs fixtures are proliferating like Coronavirus, having a Test series- even if it is just a two-match rubber- is like Goldust. Even more, Goldust is the prospect of watching India play a Test series in New Zealand.
The last time India played a Test match on New Zealand soil, MS Dhoni was still eight months and two winless tours of England and Australia- 1-3 & 0-2- away from calling time on his Test career; Virat Kohli was still to encounter his demons against the Dukes in England before embarking on an incredible run-making spree; Jasprit Bumrah was nowhere in reckoning even at the IPL level, let alone for the national side.
2014. That’s how long it has been. But even though it has been six years, India would vividly remember the last that they played in Wellington. After bowling the hosts out for 190 and having them reduced them to 5/94 in the second, they had to wait for eternity for another wicket as Brendon McCullum  and BJ Watling racked up a match-saving 357-run-stand.
In fact, that has been the story as far a Test matches in New Zealand are concerned in the past 5-6 years. While the pitch tends to seam and swing around for the first two days, the dryness underneath the surface tends to render it into a flat deck as the game wears on.
Which begs the question: what will the captains do if they win the toss- bat first like one should normally do in a Test match? Or bowl first and exploit the conditions on offer? We’ll wait and see.
The Kiwis will be looking to once again get back on the track, as far as their performances in Test matches are concerned. They come into this series after having been humbled 0-3 by the Australians but they are a different beast altogether in their home conditions.
The Kiwis are yet to lose a Test match at home since March 2017. That said, it is worth remembering that the hosts have played sides like Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and West Indies, and India will provide a stern challenge unlike any of those opponents. The Kiwis will welcome back ace fast bowler Trent Boult in their set-up after having missed his services for a major part of the last Test series against Australia.
With Neil Wagner set to miss out from the first Test, the Kiwis are set to hand out a debut to 6’8 Kyle Jamieson to round out their fast-bowling group while Ajaz Patel will serve the role of a lone spinner.
Tom Latham, Tom Blundell, Kane Williamson (C), Ross Taylor, Henry Nicholls, BJ Watling (WK), Colin de Grandhomme, Tim Southee, Kyle Jamieson, Trent Boult, Ajaz Patel.
Virat Kohli gave an indication in the press-conference that Prithvi Shaw will open the innings along with Mayank Agarwal. Shaw scored a breezy 30 in the second innings of the warm-up game edging out Shubman Gill, who failed in both innings against NZ XI.
The rest of the batting unit picks itself in the form of Pujara, Kohli, Rahane and Hanuma Vihari. Wriddiman Saha should don the gloves ahead of Rishabh Pant unless India decides to opt for the latter for his batting skills. The trio of Ishant Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami will lead the pace attack while Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin will battle it out for the lone spinner’s spot.
Prithvi Shaw, Mayank Agarwal, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (C), Ajinkya Rahane, Hanuma Vihari, Wriddhiman Saha/Rishabh Pant (WK), Ravindra Jadeja/Ravichandran Ashwin, Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah.
Focus will be on-
Mayank Agarwal [IND]– For any Indian opener, the biggest test is always how he fares in overseas conditions. Mayank has shown that before that he can counter adversity when he made his debut in Australia.
The Indian opener successfully shrugged off his patchy form with a pristine 82 in the second innings of the practice game and India will hope he can continue the same in the Test series.
Tom Latham [NZ]– Tom Latham loves batting at Basin Reserve. Since January 2015, the Kiwi opener has racked up 622 runs in 11 innings at an average of 62.20 with the help of one half-century and two Daddy hundreds which also includes a 264.
5-8- India’s W/L record in 23 Tests on New Zealand.
1968- The last time India won (by 8 wickets) a Test match in Wellington. Since then, the Men in Blue have lost four out of the six Tests that they have played at the venue.
1- Number of Test matches New Zealand have lost at home since the start of 2017. Incidentally, their last defeat came in Wellington against South Africa.
0- Number of Tests India have lost since January 2019. In this period, they have won seven and have drawn one.
1st- Ross Taylor will become the first player in the history of the game to complete 100 matches across the three formats.
23- Number of wickets Ishant Sharma has taken [in 5 games] in New Zealand. He is only behind Prasanna [35 wickets in 7 games] and Zaheer Khan [33 wickets in 7 games]
TV – Star Sports
Live Streaming – Hotstar
Match Timings – 04:00 AM IST and 10:30 pm GMT