After contrasting results in the T20I and the ODI series between New Zealand and India, the juggernaut moves to red-ball cricket.
The two teams are separated by a considerable margin in the World Test Championship table at the moment. India are miles ahead with seven wins out of seven Tests while New Zealand have won only a solitary Test out of their five.
What will give the hosts hope though is the fact that they have played all their five Tests away and will now begin the home leg of the Championship fixtures, the first being against India at the Basin Reserve in Wellington on Friday, February 21.
Ground details and team combination
The Wellington surface is one that is ideal for a Test match. It has something in it for both batsmen and bowlers. Since the start of 2017, batsmen have scored at an average of 38 runs/wickets with the bowlers returning a wicket every 65 balls, which are both middling numbers.
After the first day, the pitch becomes batting friendly. The surface here has seen big scores in this period with 500+ runs being scored thrice since.
Given the point system in fantasy cricket for Tests, it is advisable to ensure a batting heavy team.
In New Zealand overall and Wellington, in particular, pacers have been miles ahead of their spin bowling counterparts. On the bowling front, pacers have picked up 78.1 per cent of wickets here since 2017 so it is fair to say that they should feature heavily in your side.
Talking about a few low credit and high return players, Hanuma Vihari scored a century in the warm-up game against New Zealand XI and also scored a century in testing conditions in West Indies last year. He can make a difference to your fantasy side.
Mayank Agarwal too showed signs of his good form with an 80-odd in the second innings of the warm-up match.
Also, keep an eye out for Colin de Grandhomme who averages 51.7 at home since 2017 with the bat and has also picked up 22 wickets in 13 Tests since.
As an update, Neil Wagner might miss the first Test as he is expecting the birth of his child hence, so maybe wait until the toss to select him.
Calling the Test Championship the pinnacle of all ICC events, Virat Kohli would be raring to go in testing conditions in New Zealand. The Indian captain has scored 2993 runs at an average of 63.68 in Tests since 2017. A batsman who prides in his performance would not have forgotten his century at the Basin Reserve when India toured here the last time 2013-14.
In what would be his 100th Test Match, Ross Taylor will look to make it count. Since 2017, Taylor has scored 947 runs at home at an average of 63.13 in 18 innings. This improves to 64.14 when they have played against slightly tougher bowling units in South Africa, England and West Indies
After a dismal white-ball phase of the series, Jasprit Bumrah will be itching to get the ball in his hand, especially the one that moves a lot more than the white ball in conditions that will be helpful. The best Indian pacer in foreign conditions since his debut, Bumrah has taken 62 wickets in 24 away innings at 43.7 balls per wicket since 2018.
Trent Boult has often broken the back of the touring team in the first session of a Test itself. Known for his accurate swinging deliveries, Boult has picked up 67 wickets in 24 home innings since 2017. His bowling strike-rate of 45.4 balls per wicket is best among all New Zealand bowlers at home in this period.
So, who should you pick in your fantasy team for this encounter? We will go for a combination of six frontline batsmen including the wicket-keeper, two all-rounders and three bowlers
Mayank Agarwal, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (c), Kane Williamson (vc), Ross Taylor, BJ Watling (wk), Colin de Grandhomme, Hanuma Vihari, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Trent Boult