Take Zimbabwe and Bangladesh out of the equation, Windies haven’t won an away Test series since clinching one in New Zealand in 1995. The win came as a result of their success at the Basin Reserve in Wellington, where they hammered the hosts by an innings and 322 runs. More than 22 years later, they step into the same venue, with a side that is far less intimidating but with a renewed hope injected following some recent results.
Going through a prolonged period of poor form especially in Tests, Windies defied the odds to stun England in a Test earlier this year to boost their confidence and they followed it up with a series win in Zimbabwe. Shai Hope‘s turnaround is the biggest takeaway for the Windies from this brief period and if the youngster can showcase the same form that held his side’s batting together in England, then New Zealand will have their task cut out. He has already begun the tour in fine fashion by cracking a century in the warm-up fixture.
Windies will also be buoyed after witnessing some pyrotechnics from the bat of Sunil Ambris. The wicketkeeper-batsman was drafted into the squad in place of Kyle Hope, who had looked out of sorts with the bat. Ambris smashed 153 off just 145 balls in the warm-up game and the fact that he did it against a strong New Zealand A outfit would give him plenty of confidence before facing the likes of Trent Boult and Neil Wagner.
Question marks still surround over the make up of the bowling attack though as their pacers will be expected to come to the fore on a surface that looked very green earlier in the week. The series in Zimbabwe was played on slow surfaces where their spinners did most of the damage but the roles will have to be reversed here. But considering the fact that New Zealand haven’t played a Test match in over eight months, the Windies seamers can take advantage of any visible rustiness in the hosts’ batting lineup. Kane Williamson will once again be the key alongside Ross Taylor, who had a terrific series the last time the same side toured four years ago.
New Zealand will also have to contend with a couple of absentees to begin their home season. Regular wicketkeeper BJ Watling is out of the game and that presents an opportunity to newcomer Tom Blundell. In the pace department, Mark Henry will get a crack in the absence of Tim Southee. The Williamson-led side will be looking to give a good account of themselves as tougher challenges await them this home season with England set to tour later.
When: New Zealand vs Windies, 1st Test,December 1-5,11:00 AM local time,3:30 AM IST
Where: Basin Reserve, Wellington
What to expect: Chilly weather is expected throughout the course of the Test match. The wicket looked completely green earlier in the week and is likely to aid the seamers given the history of the venue.
Team News:New ZealandHaving played only one T20I for New Zealand, Tom Blundell is all set to make his Test debut after an injury ruled out BJ Watling. With Southee expecting the birth of his child, the think-tank have opted to play Mark Henry ahead of Lockie Ferguson as their playing XI was announced one day prior to the game.
Playing XI: Tom Latham, Jeet Raval, Kane Williamson (c), Ross Taylor, Henry Nicholls, Tom Blundell (WK), Mitchell Santner, Colin de Grandhomme, Matt Henry, Neil Wagner, Trent Boult
WindiesThe visitors are expected to hand a debut to Ambris, who impressed in the warm-up game earlier. He has featured in a solitary ODI prior to this. Considering they are making the switch from spin-friendly wickets to tracks that assist seamers, Windies’ bowling combination is likely to change.
Did you know:Windies played with the same XI in their last four Tests – only once they have had a longer run with an unchanged XI (five Tests against Australia in 1990-91 at home). However, with Kyle Hope missing out, they will be making a forced change.
Ross Taylor averages 62.35 against Windies. In five Tests played at home, he averages 112 against them. However, in the five away Tests, his average drops to 34.77.
Kane Williamson needs one more hundred to go past Martin Crowe’s 17 as New Zealand’s leading century maker in Tests.
What they said:“There’s always bounce for all bowlers so spinners get a bit out of it, seamers get a bit out of it. And as batters there’s always value for your shots because there’s a fast outfield and good pace in the surface.” – Kane Williamson, New Zealand captain
“We’re in a pretty good place at this point in time. We’ve built up quite nicely this past year. We’re still not the finished product, but we’re heading in the right direction.” – Jason Holder, Windies captain