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New Zealand XI vs India, 3-day Practice Match: Preview – Chance for Virat Kohli and Co to zero-in on their team combination

Focus will be on Shaw and Gill who will look to seal their place for the first Test as an opener.

Shubman Gill
Shubman Gill. (Photo by Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images)

After the razmataz of the white-ball leg- five T20Is + 3 ODIs- the caravan of India’s tour of New Zealand will now move to the two ICC Test Championship matches which will commence at the Basin Reserve in Wellington from 21st February. But before that, the visitors will take part in a three-day practice game against New Zealand XI at Seddon Park in Hamilton.

This game will be a great opportunity for the likes of Virat Kohli, Prithvi Shaw and the bowlers- especially Jasprit Bumrah, who has looked pretty rusty since his return- to acclimatize to the conditions. It will also be crucial for opener Mayank Agarwal, who has struggled with the bat ever since he landed in New Zealand. He bagged a pair in the four-day game against New Zealand A while the ODI series too didn’t go as per plans.

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It will also be interesting to see which opening pair- Mayank and Shubman Gill or Mayank and Shaw- strolls out to bat in the practice game. Shubman Gill has been in whirlwind form in FC cricket, and is coming off a double-hundred, followed by a hundred in the recent four-day games while Prithvi Shaw has shown enough promise in his limited Test career to warrant a place in the line-up.

Vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane scored a hundred while Cheteshwar Pujara too chipped-in with a half-century and the duo will look to get some more batting practice before the first Test.

Team Combinations

New Zealand XI

New Zealand XI have named a 12-member squad for the three-day practice game. All-round Daryl Mitchell will lead the squad that boasts of Tim Siefert, the in-form Dane Cleaver, Tom Bruce, all-rounder Rachin Ravindra and James Neesham. Blair Tickner will lead the bowling unit along with Ish Sodhi.

Squad- Will Young, Henry Cooper, Dane Cleaver, Tim Seifert (wk), Tom Bruce, Daryl Mitchell (c), Rachin Ravindra, James Neesham, Scott Kuggeleijn, Ish Sodhi, Blair Tickner

India

The Men in Blue have a strong 15-member contingent to choose from. Mayank Agarwal, Prithvi Shaw and Shubman Gill will serve as the three opening options while Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane and Virat Kohli will spearhead the middle-order.

It will be interesting to see if India gives Navdeep Saini a chance to showcase his skills or Umesh Yadav gets more bowling time ahead of him. That will also give us an indication that in case Ishant Sharma is ruled out, which of Saini or Umesh will partner the likes of Mohammad Shami and Jasprit Bumrah in the first Test.

Squad- Mayank Agarwal, Prithvi Shaw, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (c), Ajinkya Rahane, Hanuma Vihari, Shubman Gill, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Rishabh Pant, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Navdeep Saini, Jasprit Bumrah

Focus will be on

Dane Cleaver (New Zealand XI)

Dane Cleaver was in outstanding form in the recently concluded two-match four-way series against India A. In two matches, Cleaver scored 249 runs at an average of 124.50. It is a great opportunity for him to prove his mettle against the best in the business. A good knock against India will definitely bring him into the mix for the national side.

Shubman Gill- Shubman Gill has been in whirlwind form in FC cricket. In his last seven innings, Gill has racked up 729 runs in 7 innings at an average of 145.8 with three centuries including two double-hundreds and a half-century. As of now, he is the favourite to open the innings in the first Test. But to cement his position, Gill will have to show solidity at the top of the order to make his debut in the longest format of the game.

Match Timings – 3:30 AM IST; 11 AM local time

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