After a year of impressive performances against Pakistan, England and Zimbabwe West Indies will start another tough tour, but for a change and with lots of hope against a side that has a formidable record in its condition.
We preview the first test between two sides.
It’s been 22 years since West Indies last won a test match in New Zealand. The last time Windies defeated the Black Caps in February 1995, When they were unbeaten in test cricket for 16 years ( 1979-1995) but at the sunset of their golden era. On the other hand, Martin Crowe was still playing, and Ken Rutherford was leading a New Zealand team that was going through a disastrous time in their centenary year. It has been so long that almost 3-4 generations of players have played for both countries.
The question is does Jason Holder’s men have it in them to break the winless record of West Indies in New Zealand considering they have won away Tests against Pakistan and England after almost 26 and 18 years respectively in UAE and England. Moreover, the way New Zealand’s middle order have looked shaky in recent times might raise lots of hope among the Caribbean fans.
However, considering the formidable record of Kiwis and the way even teams like India, England, Pakistan and Sri Lanka have found it hard to beat them in their own conditions. Only Australia and S.Africa have been able to win the series in recent times in New Zealand off which S.Africa were extremely lucky to have won the series avoiding a certain defeat on last day of the final test. This clearly signifies the most onerous task in the hand of Holder.
The hosts will be playing a test series after a gap of almost 8 months, and a lot has been changed in World Cricket during this period. The overall composition of the team remains same, but certain changes are obvious.
Jeet Raval and Tom Latham will open the innings while Kane Williamson will follow them at no 4. Ross Taylor will return after missing the final test against Proteas. Henry Nicholas has been impressive while Tom Blundell will be making his test debut.
BJ Watling is injured, and that increases pressure on lower order that includes Mitchell Santner and Colin Grandhomme. Rest of the lineup is likely to be made of Neil Wagner, Trent Boult and Tim Southee whereas Southee’s availability will be subject to fitness.
On the other hand, the West Indies seem to be more settled. Craib Brathwaite and Keirn Powell are sure to open, While Shai Hope, Roston Chase, Jermaine Blackwood and Jason Holder will be forming the core of the middle and lower order with Sunil Ambris who had brilliant tour game likely to get the test cap. Kemar Roach and Shanon Gabriel seem to have formed a likening towards each other forming a healthy opening partnership while an impressive Devendra Bishoo will be the lone spinner.
The pitch at Basin is expected to be pacy as usual, and conditions are likely to be in favour of seam bowlers. In such conditions, the New Zealand bowling attack seems to be more conducive than West Indies whose seamers are more hit the deck bowlers, but it will surely come in the game as the game will progress.
The key will be how the top order negotiates the new ball. It is important that Kieran Powell have a consistent performance as another failure will increase pressure on him. It’s also time for Jermaine Blackwood to convert the starts that he is getting because West Indies cannot afford losing two cheap wickets every time they play.
Overall it will be a very interesting tussle for almost after two decades not since 2000 when West Indies seems to be having a team that is more than competitive. However, Jason Holder knows that task will not be easier in a country where they have won only one series in last 62 years and the last one coming way back in February 1995 and all those years include era of West Indies dominance as well (1975-1995).
1. Jeet Raval 2. Tom Latham 3. Kane Williamson 4. Ross Taylor 5. Henery Nicholas 6. Mitchell Santner 7. Tom Blundell (WK) 8. Colin De Grandhomme 9. Tim Southee 10. Trent Boult 11. Neil Wagner
1. Craig Brathwaite 2. Kieren Powell 3. Sunil Ambris 4. Shai Hope 5. Roston Chase 6. Jermaine Blackwood 7. Shane Dowrich 8. Jason Holder 9. Devendra Bishoo 10. Kemar Roach 11. Shannon Gabriel