New Zealand v India
Friday 18 June, 11:00
TV: live on Sky Sports
Kiwis tuned up
New Zealand have minor injury concerns over skipper Kane Williamson and wicketkeeper BJ Watling. Both missed New Zealand's crushing win over England at Edgbaston. Such is the Kiwi strength in depth, however, there is unlikely to be much hand-wringing if they miss out. Will Young and Tom Blundell stand by respectively.
Spinner Ajaz Patel, excellent in Birmingham, has seen off the challenge from Mitchell Santner and is expected to play. This means Kyle Jamieson, world No 1 all-rounder in-waiting, will bat at No 7. Matt Henry, man of the match against England, is mightily unfortunate to miss out but the prospect of pairing the holy trinity of Boult-Southee-Wagner against India's batting is too great.
The Kiwis have been nigh-on perfect in their work on tour so far, bolstering confidence for the last hurrah. And that is required. They have a nasty habit of fluffing their lines just before delivering the coup de grace.
Probable XI Latham, Conway, Williamson, Taylor, Nicholls, Watling, Jamieson, Southee, Wagner, Patel, Boult
India in trouble
India managed one intra-squad match as a warm-up after isolating in their hotel. It's a pitiful preparation for a game of such importance. Had they not spent the last couple of years preparing outrageous turners at home one might almost feel sorry for them.
They have decided to pair two spinners despite a wet forecast. Ravi Ashwin is the main man but he will be joined by Ravi Jadeja. Hanuma Vihari misses out.
Ishant Sharma has seen off a challenge from Mohammad Siraj for the third pace bowler's slot alongside Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammad Shami.
Otherwise there is pressure on openers Rohit Sharma and Shubmann Gill to adapt their game to alien conditions while Virat Kohli is in need of a score to re-establish his reputation as the ultimate batter on the planet.
Named XI Rohit, Gill, Pujara, Kohli, Rahane, Pant, Jadeja, Ashwin, Shami, Ishant, Bumrah
- Day one Up to 40% chance of showers before noon, clearing until 17.00 before strong rain chance returns
- Day two Sun and cloud
- Day three Possible washout with rain not stopping until 15.00
- Day four Clear morning. Up to 25% chance rain in afternoon
- Day five Up to 27% risk of showers until 16.00
- Day six Sun and cloud
India will be cursing the skies. The mini heatwave in England has given way to rain and grey, making conditions perfect for seamers and swingers. New Zealand will feel right at home. And at the Ageas Bowl, there have been low scores in county cricket in similar conditions. Three sides have been bowled out for under 100. There have been only six Tests played at the venue and in those first-innings the scores (most recent first) read: 236-204-246-569-184.
A bowler-friendly deck can be expected. Overhead there should be help, too. The weather forecast is conducive to swing. In other words, perfect home from home conditions for New Zealand and a nightmare for India's stand-and-deliver batsmen. The alien conditions for India are shown in the data, too.
India have passed 300 twice in their last 11 first-innings in New Zealand and England. They average 237 in that study period. So we want to short their runs. A lay of 300 or more could be on the cards at 2.1011/10.
Lay the draw
It is entirely in keeping with the marginalisation of the five-day game that it's showpiece takes place as a one-off shootout in 'home' conditions for one team, the other totally underprepared and in the soulless void that is the Ageas Bowl.
New Zealand, perfectly tuned up thanks to two warm-ups against England, should thump India here. Everything is stacked against India. They have lost seven, drawing two, of their last 13 in the first Test of an away series outside Asia, have won just two of their last 14 in England and were outclassed 2-0 in New Zealand in February. It would be an extraordinary achievement for them to win.
India have drifted significantly on the match odds market, going from favourites to 3.65. New Zealand are a perfectly acceptable wager at 2.8615/8 with dominance expected.
However, the wise and shrewd bet is a lay of the draw at 2.26/5 or skinnier on the first morning with a wet start expected. We'd be laying at that price in a normal five-day Test. But for the final there is a reserve day, allowing time lost to rain to be made up. The draw price is way too short.
Williamson and Devon Conway are 11/4 joint favourites for top new Zealand first-innings runscorer. Jamieson has been cut from 40/1 to 20/1 irritatingly. Kohli is available at a surprisingly-big 3/1 for India honours but we'll have a dabble on Ashwin at 33s. He has topped twice outside Asia in the last 15 and if India get rolled he may need only 40 or 50 to win it.
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