West Indies embark on a long tour to the Black Caps’ homeland as they prepare to face them in 2 Tests, 3 ODIs, and 3 T20Is. The visitors have not had a good year. They have yet to win a series against a worthy competitor in 2017, their only victory coming against Afghanistan a few months back.
New Zealand, on the other hand, will be pleased with their valiant performances against India away from home. They were arguably the strongest any team has been against the Indians in the subcontinent in recent memory. However, those were the shorter formats of the game, and their resilience in the longest format is yet to be tested this year. They last won a Test back in January, beating Bangladesh 2-0. Given the relative under-preparedness of both teams in Test cricket, this should be an interesting contest.
Jason Holder (c), Kraigg Brathwaite, Sunil Ambris, Devendra Bishoo, Jermaine Blackwood, Roston Chase, Miguel Cummins, Shane Dowrich, Shannon Gabriel, Shimron Hetmyer, Shai Hope, Alzarri Joseph, Kieran Powell, Raymon Reifer, Kemar Roach.
Kane Williamson (c), Tom Latham, Jeet Raval, Ross Taylor, Henry Nicholls, Mitchell Santner, Colin de Grandhomme, Tim Southee, Neil Wagner, Trent Boult, Matt Henry, Tom Blundell, Lockie Ferguson, George Worker.
Where the teams stand
As has been the trend for them in the past couple of series, the West Indian batting lineup largely relies on Shai Hope and Brathwaite to get them the crucial runs. Hope has consistently scored runs for the side, taking them to victory against England away from home. Jermaine Blackwood has been decent for them as well, regularly stringing half-centuries but failing to convert them into big, match-winning knocks. The lack of big names inevitably means that captain Jason Holder will also have to bear the burden of the batting. A surprising pick by the WICB is Shane Dowrich, who has been absolutely terrible, and his selection continues to defy all logic. Besides a score of 103 against Zimbabwe, he has yet to cross a score of 20 since August. Surely the Windies have better keepers than him. The batting is admittedly running thin on reliability, but that has been the case for a while now. Roston Chase and Kieran Powell will most likely make it to the first team.
The West Indian bowling has been inconsistent recently. Kemar Roach returned after a long sabbatical for their previous Test series against Zimbabwe and has been fairly effective with the ball. Holder will be a key cog in the attack as captain, but he has become more of an X-factor rather than a reliable opening seamer for the Windies. Shannon Gabriel and Alzarri Joseph should be the ones to fill the other slots for pacers in the team. Bishoo will be the lone spinner for them, a decent option in the absence of Sunil Narine or Ashley Nurse.
Darren Sammy has predicted a 1-1 scoreline by the end of the series. The Windies must try to make that 1-0 to give them some confidence going into the shorter formats.
Tom Latham is the man of the moment for New Zealand. The middle-order batsman has been in spectacular form for his side, amassing a plethora of runs against India in the subcontinent. Ross Taylor, Kane Williamson, Henry Nicholls, de Grandhomme, and one more batsman will most likely be their combination for the Test. The former two and Latham form the backbone of the batting. Three reliable batsmen where the Windies have none. This is a significant advantage over their rivals, one they need to exploit fully to win. Considering the home advantage, if the rest chip in with a few runs as well, the Black Caps could easily attain a high score.
Trent Boult is arguably one of the best fast bowlers going around. While slightly inconsistent, when he hits his stride, he can trouble any opposition in the world. Southee, Henry, Ferguson, and Wagner are other options in the pace department. Southee is a veteran, his selection guaranteed barring any injury. However, he was quite erratic in India. Henry has been a regular feature too while Ferguson and Wagner are both exciting prospects. de Grandhomme can swing his arm is required too, giving Williamson a versatile bunch to choose from. Santner is bound to be the pure spin option for the skipper, another regular in the team. Overall, they have a much better balance to their team than the Windies, both with the bat and the ball. They should win the Test with reasonable ease.
New Zealand win. They have a much better set of players than the Windies, and the home advantage is bound to play a significant role in proceedings throughout the five days.
Who will get the perfect start and take a 1-0 lead in the series? Let us know in the comments below
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