India ready to take on New Zealand in Ross Taylor's 100th Test match

Virat Kohli and his men gear up for the biggest challenge in the World Test Championships as they face a formidable New Zealand in the first Test, starting Friday.

The prize: Kane Williamson and Virat Kohli pose with the trophy as the two-Test series starts from Friday in Wellington.   -  Twitter/BlackCaps

You step into Basin Reserve and memories of another day flash before your eyes.

The year was 2002 and India was taking on New Zealand in the first Test of the series at this breathtaking ground flanked by hills.

In the middle, the duel between the gladiatorial Shane Bond, bowling with the wind, and the ice-cool Rahul Dravid, was both beautiful and brutal.

Bond, athletic, rhythmic, and hostile got the ball to climb viciously and Dravid, a combination of heart and technique, rose on his toes, took the weight off the bottom hand and kept the lifters down with skill and class.

It was a combat of searing intensity. Dravid’s 76 was worth more than a hundred but India eventually lost the Test.

That was also a Basin Reserve track that offered assistance to the seamers in both the innings.   

Subsequently, the pitch here has changed in character. These days much about dishing out winning cricket at the Basin is how a team performed in the second innings.

There is a covering of grass on the pitch for the forthcoming first Test and the two teams should be close to being bowled out in their first innings by day two.

It’s in the second innings as the surface eases out that the real game begins. There is less deviation off the track for the seamers, the pitch becomes slower and runs flow off the blade.

Then it boils down to strategy and the execution of plans. The strong wind, who bowls with and against it, could be critical to the outcome.

A good start from openers Mayank Agarwal and Prithvi Shaw will lay a solid foundation for India.   -  PTI

 

Pitch Factor

This said, the surface for the India-New Zealand game, a part of the World Test Championship, could be different in character.

The track might be harder underneath, offering bounce to the seamers even after the effect of the grass covering wears off following the first two days.

The host has announced its 12 for the Test, with Matt Henry missing the cut. Left-arm spinner Ajaz Patel should get the nod over Daryl Mitchell, a seam-bowling all-rounder.

The Mumbai-born Patel could keep one end locked up, bowling against the wind. There could be dip and drift for the spinners.

Both sides will realise the value of starts, particularly with the Kookaburra ball in operation.

The Kookaburra’s seam is not as pronounced as that of Duke, and the ball tends to do less after the first 20 overs.

 

This is precisely why the Indian opening pair of Mayank Agarwal and Prithvi Shaw has to prevent the Kiwi pacemen from making early inroads, making it easier for the men who follow. 

The back-in-action Trent Bount and Tim Southee form a potent left-right combination of swing bowlers who can exploit chinks.

The Kiwis will miss Niel Wagner’s hustling ways but has in Kyle Jamieson, a lanky seamer with pace, bounce and an off-stump line.

The Indians have the batting, led by skipper Virat Kohli, to combat the conditions and the attack, and a seam attack that can hurt. Ishant Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah, and Mohammed Shami can open up the Kiwi line-up.

Much for the host hinges on skipper Kane Williamson’s innings building skills and the 100-Test man Ross Taylor’s strokeplay. Tom Latham and Colin de Grandhomme could also prove audacious with their shots.

Catching in the slips will be of great importance for both sides. Again wind will be a factor.

The teams: India (from): Virat Kohli (captain), Mayank Agarwal, Prithivi Shaw, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Hanuma Vihari, Rishabh Pant (wk), R. Ashwin, Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah, Umesh Yadav, Ravindra Jadeja, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Navdeep Saini, Shubhman Gill.

New Zealand (from): Kane Williamson (captain), Tom Latham, Tony Blundell, Henry Nicholls, Ross Taylor, Colin de Grandhomme, B.J. Watling (keeper), Tim Southee, Ajaz Patel, Tim Southee, Kyle Jamieson, Daryl Mitchell.

Umpires: Richard Kettleborough, Aleem Dar, TV Umpire: Michael Gough; Match Referee: Ranjan Madugalle.

Match starts at 4 AM IST

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