New Zealand vs West Indies 1st Test Preview: Kiwis expected to continue domination at home as WI hope batting to hold fort
As New Zealand took the T20I series 2-0, with the last match being washed out, it is time for some red-ball action.
NZ dominant at home
Both teams are coming off contrasting fortunes in test cricket. The last time New Zealand took the field in the five-day format, it was against India in March this year, when the world was a totally different place before the Covid-19 pandemic had hit with full force.
New Zealand overwhelmed India in both the test matches and won by 10 wickets and 7 wickets respectively. Even the number one ranked side was no match for the Kiwis on their home turf as they made excellent use of the seaming and swinging conditions to fold up the Virat Kohli-led side cheaply.
West Indies were part of the historic moment when international cricket resumed post the Covid-19 outbreak, competing against England in a three-match test series. The team started on a brilliant note, with a 4-wicket victory but ran out of steam as the series moved forward and lost the last two matches by 113 runs and 269 runs to concede the series 0-2.
West Indies much improved but still work in progress
There was a patch of around two years when West Indies couldn't even win a test to save their life. However, the team has come a long way since then and looks a lot more organised now.
That said, there is still a lot of room for improvement, but the team has all the ingredients to become a very successful test playing side in a couple of years time.
Williamson and Boult return
New Zealand's star players Kane Williamson and Trent Boult missed out during the T20I series as they were given a rest post their run at the Indian Premier League. The two will be back for the test matches. Ross Taylor and Tim Southee will be the other key players for the home side.
In the series against India, Tom Latham finished as the top run scorer for the side at an average of over 40. Tom Blundell has also impressed in the limited opportunities he has got.
The all-round ability of Kyle Jamieson can also not be underestimated as his 93 runs in the two matches were crucial in taking the hosts to victory. Tim Southee and Trent Boult - as has been the case over the last decade - will continue to lead the New Zealand pace bowling attack. Southee and Boult picked up 14 and 11 wickets respectively in the two matches against India.
Kyle Jamieson has also impressed many and his game is best suited to test match cricket where his height and control over line and length make him a great prospect for this series.
Brathwaite, Bravo, Brooks key for WI batting
West Indies were without Shimron Hetmyer and Darren Bravo in their 1-2 series defeat against England. In that series, Jermaine Blackwood quite unexpectedly finished as their top run scorer with 211 runs from 6 innings at an average of 35. However, whether or not he keeps his place with the return of Shimron Hetmyer will be interesting to see.
Shamarh Brooks and Kraigg Brathwaite were their top scorers in the series against England and remain key for the West Indies batting. The inclusion of Darren Bravo will further strengthen West Indies' top order.
All pace attack likely
Kemar Roach and Shannon Gabriel are the leading pacers for West Indies and will get the support of skipper Jason Holder, who has been in good form of late. Alzarri Joseph is likely to play as the fourth seamer. He will play ahead of spinner Rahkeem Cornwall due to the nature of the New Zealand pitches.
An injury to BJ Watling means that Tom Blundell will keep wickets while Will Young will be included in the playing XI.
Here's the probable playing XI of both teams:
West Indies - Kraigg Brathwaite, John Campbell, Darren Bravo, Shamarh Brooks, Roston Chase, Shimron Hetmyer/Jermaine Blackwood, Shane Dowrich (wk), Jason Holder (c), Alzarri Joseph, Kemar Roach, Shannon Gabriel
New Zealand - Tom Latham, Will Young, Kane Williamson (c), Ross Taylor, Tom Blundell (wk), Henry Nicholls, Daryl Mitchell/Mitchell Santner, Kyle Jamieson, Tim Southee, Neil Wagner, Trent Boult
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