Sunday 28 November, 4.00am
Ed Hawkins says the Kiwis are solid value in Kanpur from Thursday if the toss goes their way...
"Few international sides are able to bet at their best with such a raft of first-choice players on the sidelines"
India v New Zealand
Thursday 25 November, 04:00
TV: live on Sky Sports
This is not a full-strength India team and the reserve feel got a little stronger just be-fore the off with the news that KL Rahul has been ruled out with injury.
With captain Virat Kohli resting and Rohit Sharma doing likewise, the hosts are begin-ning to run out of batsmen. There's no Rishabh Pant, either. A debut for Shreyas Iyer looks likely while Shubmann Gill will open alongside Mayank Agarwal.
Jasprit Bumrah is not involved but India will probably be producing a raging turner so two from Ravi Ashwin, Ravi Jadeja and Axar Patel stand by. They could pick all three and dispense of a batter.
Possible XI Agarwal, Gill, Pujara, Rahane, Iyer, Jadeja, Saha, Ashwin, Axar, Ishant, Siraj
New Zealand solid
New Zealand are not at their strongest, either, but that's only because Trent Boult is knackered and BJ Watling has retired. It's still close to the World Test title-winning vintage.
Skip Kane Williamson is refreshed and recharged following a watching brief in the T20s, likewise Kyle Jamieson who is moving closer to realising this is his specialism.
Otherwise this has a very Kiwi feel. Solid and set to squeeze every bit of talent. Mitchell Santner and Ajaz Patel will keep an end tight while the seamers can be rotated. Ross Tay-lor and Henry Nicholls are terrific middle-order ballast.
Probable XI Latham, Ravindra, Williamson, Taylor, Nicholls, Blundell, Santner, Southee, Jamieson, Wagner, Patel.
The last Test in Kanpur in 2016 was between these two sides. India handed out a thrashing by 197 runs. Ravi Ashwin took ten wickets in the match but was pipped by Jadeja for man of the match because of wickets and runs.
In that game 31 wickets of the 35 to fall went to spin. It is reasonable to reckon that India will make life as hard as possible for the visitors by preparing a spinning surface. The pitches prepared for their home series against England are a good indicator.
Since that 2016 Test eight of the nine first-class matches played at the venue have been stalemates. That adds to the feeling that India will want something less benign.
Kiwis worth a gamble
India are 1.684/6, New Zealand are 5.04/1 and the draw is 4.804/1. We are lining up a gamble on the tourists at those prices.
There is a couple of caveats, though. We need the Kiwis to be batting first so not to be left in a horrible spot chasing something awkward on a heap in the fourth. If the toss goes their way they have the fight, nous and ability to keep themselves in the game and hope that Santner and Patel can use a wearing surface to their advantage. We'll also have to take a cut.
Of course India are better suited to conditions. But this is a threadbare XI now and few international sides are able to bet at their best with such a raft of first-choice players on the sidelines. India might be about to find out they're not as strong as they think.
The win rates we like to rely on for top batsman and bowler are thrown out of kilter by all the absentees in the India line-up.
Chet Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane will be popular because of their experience and although we can't be too concerned about returns of 12.8% and 10% respectively, odds of 3/1 and 9/2 don't scream value.
For the Kiwis Williamson is 2/1 which is bang on for his win rate. Jamieson, however, is of interest at a massive 40/1. Have a nibble just in case Ashwin and co hit their straps and he needs only a 30 or 40 to win it.
As for Ashwin the 2/1 he takes most India wickets in the first dig is spot on in terms of win rate.
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Sunday 28 November, 4.00am