New Zealand and India lock horns once again after a slight break following the one-day internationals. The Black Caps got their revenge in spectacular fashion following their defeat in the T20I series. India whitewashed the hosts in the 20-over format, winning five matches on the bounce. However, New Zealand turned the tables by winning three-straight matches in the ODI arena.
This hands Kane Williamson’s side momentum for the two-match Test series, which begins in Wellington. There are points to play for in the World Test Championship. India are leading the table having won all seven of their matches and all three series in the competition. New Zealand are down in sixth place and need to find their form in the tournament.
The Black Caps have a strong record at home in Test matches under the tenure of Williamson. They’ve lost only one of the eight series under his captaincy, which came at the hands of South Africa in 2017.
India will not find life easy against the hosts, especially considering that their key players have looked off the boil on the tour thus far. The visitors will need to be at their best to defeat Williamson’s men at the Basin Reserve.
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New Zealand will welcome back Williamson into the fold after he missed the ODI series with a shoulder injury. The Black Caps captain will solidify the top order, although his team-mates were more than up to the challenge in the 50-over format. BJ Watling returns to take the gloves from Tom Latham that will send the latter back to his spot as opener.
Perhaps an even bigger boost than Williamson’s return is Trent Boult’s comeback from a hand injury. The 30-year-old will spearhead the bowling attack alongside Tim Southee and Neil Wagner. His importance cannot be understated given his exceptional quality in home conditions.
New Zealand do face a decision whether to employ a spinner with Ajaz Patel in the squad, although they could use four seamers as Kyle Jamieson made a decisive impact during the ODI series in his first taste of international cricket.
India have to respond to their defeat at the hands of the Black Caps in the ODIs. They were lacklustre in all department and even their two star men, Kohli and Jasprit Bumrah were well off the pace.
The team have been a different prospect in Test match cricket of late, dominating all three of their last opponents, although New Zealand will present a tougher challenge.
There is new blood that will come into the side. Ravichandran Ashwin, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Risbah Pant, Ishant Sharma and Hanuma Vihari are all available after missing out on the limited-overs side.
Pujara and Rahane will provide experience and stability to the India batting line-up that was lacking in the ODIs. Ashwin will lock down the spinner’s spot in the line-up, aiming to display the consistency that evaded Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav.
Kohli has a lot to work with in his squad but must find the best balance. It has been a while since they have been in action in the five-day format and they cannot be caught cold.
The 30-year-old will also have concerns about his own form, which has been leaner than expected since his arrival in New Zealand. There’s more than enough talent for India to win in Wellington. Look out for opener Mayank Agarwal, who has been a star in the World Test Championship to date.
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The forecast for the contest at the Basin Reserve is not looking great for a complete game. Expect there to be rain on days two and three, although at the moment it is scheduled to be in the morning.
It could affect the potential of a result, although on the other hand it could hand both sets of bowlers a huge advantage, especially if the ball swings.
There have been results in seven out of the last nine matches played in Wellington. Therefore, it should be a good pitch and hopefully the forecast rain is brief, with days four and five predicted to be bright sunshine.
New Zealand are a very strong unit on home soil and have momentum on their side. The return of Boult completes their potent three-man attack, which has the ability to put India’s batting line-up under pressure.
Williamson will be eager to prove a point with the bat after missing out on his side’s ODI triumph due to injury. Ross Taylor was already in impressive form, which highlights the talent New Zealand boast in their middle order.
Kohli and Bumrah have not been at their best and if they fail once again, it will leave India exposed to their first defeat of the World Test Championship. The Black Caps are unbeaten in their last three matches at the Basin Reserve and expect them to extend their run with a victory over the tourists.
New Zealand to beat India 1st Test – 2.50 Betway
Kane Williamson missed the ODI series and will have a point to prove. He has an excellent record at the Basin Reserve, boasting an average of 65.50 with three centuries in 12 matches.
Kane Williamson to be New Zealand’s top batsman 1st innings – 3.60 Betway
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