The recency factor can be dangerous, and, in this case, it suggests that New Zealand are untouchables, with the BlackCaps winning all the three Tests that they have faced against India. But there is an asterisk that is attached, which makes this all interesting. Across the last three Tests, home and in neutral conditions, Kane Williamson’s side has convincingly beaten India, but can they do it in India?
Beating India in India is a mean task and the only side which has managed to walk away with a series win in the sub-continent against this powerful unit, England. With Trent Boult missing this series, can New Zealand still be the force that took the Indian batters by their breath?
Total – 60 | India – 21 | New Zealand – 13 | Drawn – 26
Last three H2H games: New Zealand – 3 | India – 0
India would have fond memories of playing at the Green Park stadium, with their last encounter at the venue being in 2016. Incidentally, it was against the same opposition, New Zealand, with the Indian team winning the encounter by 197 runs. While it is tough to ascertain how the conditions will play out after five years, history suggests that it will favour the tweakers.
In India’s last encounter at the venue, 26 wickets were taken by spinners, which shows how it is yet another characteristic sub-continental pitch. 65.8% of the wickets at the venue historically have been taken by the spinners (77 wickets), with the pacers just accounting for the 34.2% (40 wickets).
Similar to other conditions in the country, teams would want to bat first, with the average score being 371 at the venue, with the scores depreciating as the Test progresses, with 135 being the average score for the fourth innings. So, teams would want to call/toss it right at the toss if they want to take the full advantage of the batting conditions early on in the Test.
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Having skipped the three-match T20I series to focus on the Test fixture, Kane Williamson would be eager to satisfy the hungry run-machine. In the last World Test Championship cycle, the BlackCaps skipper piled 918 runs in just ten Tests, averaging 61.20 with the bat, bringing up three centuries and two half-centuries in the process. In the WTC final in Southampton, the New Zealand skipper led with the bat, scoring a 49 and 52*, which ultimately crowned the Kiwis as the first Test champions.
Williamson also is New Zealand’s fourth-highest run-getter in India, with 461 runs, averaging 35.46 in the sub-continent. At this venue last time around, Williamson scored a masterful 75 in the first innings before scoring a 25 in the second.
In the absence of both Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul, Mayank Agarwal at the top of the order would be crucial component to India’s success against New Zealand. The right-handed opener has scored 597 runs in the last two years at home, averaging 99.5, which shows how he could be an X-factor for India.
Ravichandran Ashwin’s form, experience in the format is such that you can not just ignore him and if you ignore him, you will end up looking like a fool. Ashwin is the second highest wicket-taker in India, with 286 wickets, averaging 21.9 in home conditions, only behind Anil Kumble, who has picked up 350 wickets. New Zealand are one of Ashwin’s favourite opponents, with 52 wickets against the BlackCaps, averaging just 16.5. If the WTC final was any indicator, it would be Ashwin, who could define the series.
What Ashwin is to India, Ajaz Patel is to New Zealand. Since becoming a regular feature in the BlackCaps setup, Patel’s confidence has touched the sky with his ceiling increasing every day. Despite being wicketless against India in his Test career, Patel has been an important member of this New Zealand setup, with 26 wickets. In UAE and Sri Lanka, the left-arm spinner proved his worth, with 22 wickets. With this being his first series in India, expect the tweaker to play around with the Indian batting unit.
Tom Latham’s battle with Ravichandran Ashwin could be an interesting point of discussion for the outcome of the Test. The BlackCaps opener has been dismissed twice off Ashwin’s bowling, scoring just three runs in 27 deliveries. With the conditions in India heavily tilted towards spinners, this battle could set the tone to New Zealand’s batting.
New Zealand: Tom Latham, Rachin Ravindra, Kane Williamson (c), Ross Taylor, Henry Nicholls, Tom Blundell (wk), Kyle Jamieson, Tim Southee, Ajaz Patel, Will Somerville, Neil Wagner
India: Mayank Agarwal, Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane (c), Shreyas Iyer, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav