New Zealand’s exposure to the conditions after two Tests against England has united the cricket experts at handing them the edge for the final. But if you are in the Indian camp, the series also provided an opportunity to observe the Kiwi batsmen from close quarters and in the relevant conditions to analyze the areas to target.
Based on recent numbers, here is how the Indian bowlers will look to target the Kiwi batting line-up.
Note: All numbers are from 2018 to increase the sample size (Most of New Zealand’s series in the WTC cycle were at home and involved two matches)
In the past few years, opening against the red-ball has been the most difficult job in the business. Latham has been one of the most prolific openers in Test cricket and has the second-highest number of runs as an opener since 2018.
In this period, Latham has averaged under 20 against left-arm pace and leg-spin, both varieties that India do not have in their armory. Against off-spinners, his average shoots up to 103.8. Hence, Ravichandran Ashwin might not be a big threat either.
But thanks to Stuart Broad, Indian pacers now have an area to exploit Latham at. The Kiwi opener has averaged 46.77 against right-arm pacers. But this drops to the early 30s when they go around the wicket. In the recent series against England, Latham had three dismissals. Two of these were against Broad who trapped him from that angle on both occasions.
Biggest threat: Ishant Sharma averages 20.9 in Tests since 2018 against left-handers. This improves to 18.7 when he bowls from around the stumps. The best among Indian pacers.
In what he has achieved in his first two Tests, all the analysts in the world are looking for weaknesses in Conway’s technique. He looked comfortable against both pace and off-spin in his first two Tests and averaged high on all pace lengths.
If there was anything to point a finger at, it was his approach to the short ball. He attacked every two in three short balls and had the highest false shot percentage (19%) of all pace lengths.
In his first-class career, he has been dismissed by off-spinners 20 times, which is the second most after right-arm pacers (88). This might encourage Ashwin too.
Biggest threat: Mohammed Shami, 11 wickets at an average of 13.2 on the short-ball and Ashwin, the one with most left-hander wickets in Test history.
Being the absolute gem that he is, Williamson has averaged above 50 against all bowling types since 2018. Across all pace lengths except one, his average is 40 or above. It is the short-pitched stuff against which he has three dismissals since 2018 and averaged 13.3.
Despite being one of the modern-day greats, Williamson is not a happy traveller. His average of 81.23 against pace in New Zealand drops to 20.78 while batting away from home. India would hope that the trend continues.
Judging from the current England series, incoming deliveries from a high release point particularly flustered Williamson.
Biggest threat: 60% of Jasprit Bumrah’s wicket against right-handed batsmen have been through incoming deliveries.
An average of under 40 since 2018 for a Test number four in the number one side in the world is underwhelming. In the twilight of his career, Taylor has been struggling to make an impact in this New Zealand side.
His average away from home against pace has been a meagre 22.8 in this period. Taylor’s average is in the early twenties or below when there is movement on either side. Seven out of his last 20 dismissals against pace have been with bowled or LBW, highlighting the vulnerabilities to the ball at his stumps. He also has four dismissals at 30.8 against left-arm orthodox which also bring Ravindra Jadeja into the picture.
Biggest threat: Ishant Sharma with a natural in-swinger but also the ability to move the ball away at times.
No other batsman has averaged more than Nicholls on good length balls against pace in recent times. Even against England, he looked solid against whatever the greats of fast bowling threw at him.
However, he averages only 27.3 against off-spin with 11 dismissals since 2018. This will have Ashwin licking his lips at the prospect of a contest with him.
Biggest threat: Even away from home, Ashwin has dismissed 24 lefties in this period at an average of 16.3.
In his last Test, Watling had been saviour of the Kiwis time and time again. He has averaged a decent 32.58 against pace in recent times to go with an even higher 58.5 against spin.
But like most of his countrymen, his average against pace drops away from home (20.33). This average drops below 20 to balls at a good or back of a length.
Biggest threat: Bumrah averages 15.9 runs per wicket on good length balls, He dismissed Watling twice in New Zealand in 2020. Shami has 18 wickets at 24.6 apiece off the back of length stuff.