New Zealand v India
Thursday 20 February, 22:30
Live on Sky Sports
Kiwis tough to beat
New Zealand have won their last five series at home. And they have only lost two of their last ten. They will expect to provide India with their sternest examination for some time.
In game one they will have to do it without Neil Wagner, who misses out with his first child due. Matt Henry comes into the squad instead. But the big news is that Trent Boult is fit again. Unfortunately Lockie Ferguson remains on the sidelines.
Kyle Jamieson, the beanpole pacer, is in line for a Test debut while left-arm spinner Ajaz Patel replaces Mitchell Santner. That's significant. Santner is a holding bowler, Patel is not so the Kiwis will be more attack-minded with a spinner. Ross Taylor, a bonafide legend, plays his 100th Test.
Probable XI: Latham, Blundell, Williamson, Taylor, Nicholls, Watling, De Grandhomme, Southee, Patel, Boult, Jamieson
India without Rohit
India are the No 1 team in the world. They have won their last five series. But three of those were at home and they still have a lot to prove when they hit the road, particularly in bowler-friendly conditions.
The win Down Under is a significant feather. They have it all to prove, though, when the ball seams and swings. Series losses in South Africa and England in 2018 mean the jury is out on whether they can play the bending ball. They lost 1-0 on their last visit in 2014.
Rohit Sharma is injured so they need a new opener to counter the pace barrage. Prithvi Shaw could get the gig alongside Mayank Agarwal.
Wriddi Saha is expected to see off a challenge from Rish Pant for the gloves. We also expect India to field only one spinner so Ishant Sharma (fit again), Mohammad Shami and Umesh Yadav are looking for the two spots to join Jasprit Bumrah.
Possible XI: Agarwal, Shaw, Pujara, Kohli, Rahane, Vihari, Saha, Ashwin, Shami, Umesh, Bumrah
Kiwis are trend busters
There have been six tests in the last five years at Basin Reserve. Five of them produced results. The first innings scores of the match (most recent first) read: 211-282-134-268-595-183.
All five were won by the team fielding first. This flies in the face of the world trend for sides batting first to dominate. New Zealand is unique in that bowl-first teams have the edge. Since 2016, teams bowling first in New Zealand have won 57.8% of the time. In England that figure is 25.9%, South Africa 22%, Australia 34% and India 38%.
It is reasonable to expect the side batting first to struggle. The average first innings scores in New Zealand in the last four years is only 276 which is the lowest among all countries. But, and this is where it gets interesting for the in-play markets, New Zealand is the only host nation where the average score in the second innings busts 400.
Only in New Zealand do teams average more batting in the second innings than the first. This statistical anomaly was discussed in this week's episode of Cricket...Only Bettor, below.
Why you should bowl first in New Zealand...and only in New Zealand. Listen to Cricket...Only Bettor: 17
Don't bet before flip
New Zealand are 2.6813/8, India 2.186/5 and the draw (no rains is currently forecast although overcast conditions are expected to assist bowlers) is 6.05/1. Obviously given the trends discussed above it would be nuts to be betting pre-toss.
We expect India, for example, to come odds on if the flip goes their way and Virat Kohli, having listened to his team analyst, chooses to bowl first. If the price can hold at the 1.9010/11 mark we would be happy to be involved.
That is the only way to get with the world's best. It would not be smart to go against the toss bias, not least because there is also evidence that spinners are less effective as a match wears on, something India have relied on at home.
Williamson v Kohli
This Test sees two of the Big Four pitted against each other: Kane Williamson and Kohli. Williamson is 5/2 for top Kiwi bat in the first innings with Sportsbook while Kohli is 11/4. The pair averaged 54 and 62 respectively in the 2014 series.
Taylor, though, provides classy opposition to Williamson and he gets a 3/1 offer. Agarwal has been close to a sensation for India and the 4/1 is likely to prove popular