Date & Time: Friday, February 21, 04:00 IST
Venue: Basin Reserve, Wellington, New Zealand
Youngsters in focus for India as they go up against a strong New Zealand bowling line up
The series shifts to the longer format of the game after a see-saw in the limited overs series. Both the teams will be happy with the contrasting results from the series, but India will be more on the happier side with a white-wash in the T20I series as the T20 world cup closes in. The tour decider now lies in the Tests.
India has a massive lead in the Test Championship heading into this series. They are yet to lose a match or even better way to put it, they still haven’t had a draw to their name. On the other hand, New Zealand has won only one match out of the 5 matches played. To their advantage they will be playing in home conditions, which will be their first home series in the World Test Championship.
Neil Wagner will not be available for selection as he has gone back for the birth of his child. India face a problem with regards to who will be the opening partner of Mayank.
New Zealand probable XI:
Tom Latham, Tom Blundell, Kane Williamson (c), Ross Taylor, Henry Nicholls, BJ Watling (wk), Colin de Grandhomme, Tim Southee, Trent Boult, Matt Henry/Kyle Jamieson, Ajaz Patel.
India Probable XI:
Mayank Agarwal, Prithvi Shaw/Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (c), Ajinkya Rahane, Hanuma Vihari, Wriddhiman Saha, Ravindra Jadeja/Ravichandran Ashwin, Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah.
The pitch at Wellington is tailor made for the bowlers, particularly in the first innings. With an average of 28.6 in the first innings since 2016 in Tests. However, the batting becomes easier in the 2nd innings as compared to 1st innings. This will be one of the reasons that would prompt a team to field first at Wellington. In the 2nd innings here at Wellington, batting average elevates to 52.4 against 27.9 in the 1st innings. The pacers have done the bulk of the bowling at Wellington in Tests since 2016. The pacers have bowled nearly 1400 overs compared to spinners, who have bowled only 440 overs to scalp 39 wickets.
Taylor has been one of the batting pillars for New Zealand in the last couple of years. Since 2019, he has been the joint highest run scorer for New Zealand with 651 runs at an average of 50.1. His record at Wellington is also something that would entice us to keep him in the fantasy team. Ross has scored 1226 at an average of 64.5 with three centuries and eight half centuries to his name. In the last five innings at Basin Reserve, Taylor has scores of 200, 50, 93, 60 and 40 (recent first).
The New Zealand skipper has been exceptional in the last three years averaging more than 50 each year. Since 2017, Williamson has scored 1731 at an average of 57.7 with seven centuries to his name. His average is the 4th best among all the batsmen who have scored more than 1000 runs since 2017 in Tests. He is one of the must-have players in the fantasy team.
This batsman’s craving for runs just doesn’t stop. Since 2016, he has an average of over 55 each year and on an additional note his record overseas (SA, ENG & AUS) is exceptional. Kohli was a part of the Indian Test team that toured NZ in 2014 and his record in New Zealand is encouraging and a lot of responsibility rests on the shoulders of the skipper. In the four innings he has played in New Zealand, he has scores of 105*, 38, 67, & 4 averaging 71.3. It’s a no-brainier that he is one of the preferred choices in the fantasy team.
Good news came in as Ishant was cleared of his fitness test and would join the Indian squad. Ishant’s form in the last couple of years has been stupendous averaging 19.4 in Tests since 2018. In the year 2019 he bagged 25 wickets at an average of 15.6, his bowling average was the 2nd best among bowlers.