New Zealand v India, 1st Test, Auckland February 5, 2014

Bowlers give hosts edge in even contest

172

Match facts

February 6-10, 2014
Start time 1100 local (2200 GMT, previous day)

Big Picture

At one of the more oddly shaped grounds in cricket begins what looks like a Test series between evenly matched sides. New Zealand were overwhelmingly the better side in the ODIs, but they will surely know it won't be easy to roll India over during the Tests. There is evidence of that in how India put up a fight in the Tests in South Africa after an ODI series that was even more horrible than the one in New Zealand. Also the hosts have a record to correct, that of having won only three home Tests - two against West Indies and one against Zimbabwe - since the start of 2011.

India have a statistic of their own to match. They haven't won any of their last 12 away Tests. They can draw inspiration from how well they played on the first four days of the Wanderers Test. The biggest difference from the ODIs will be that their batsmen will be able to allow a few short balls go through without the pressure of having to score at more than six an over. Four Indian batsmen showed they had the patience to keep respecting the good balls in South Africa; India will need more of that.

It won't be as easy for New Zealand quicks, good as they are, as it was in the ODIs. The onus, still, will be on Tim Southee, Trent Boult, Neil Wagner and Corey Anderson to take 20 wickets on what generally are true surfaces that don't break up, which shows in nine draws out of 12 matches since the start of 2011. Southee and Boult nearly delivered a win in Bangalore in 2012-13; they will want to go the whole way this time.

For Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara there are Ross Taylor and Kane Williamson. These are four batsmen as good as any for two batting sides to revolve around. It's the bowling where New Zealand score over India, but they will need the best of batting from batsmen other than Taylor and Williamson to make sure that advantage is not squandered.

Form guide

(last five completed matches, most recent first)

New Zealand WWDDD
India LDWWW

In the spotlight

If there is to be a turnaround for India, you'd imagine Kohli will have a role to play. In South Africa, too, he was the first man to make India believe they could compete. It is not just the runs Kohli makes, it's his enforcer attitude that lifts the team up. Only when he can marshal the batting unit can India ponder the question of how to take 20 wickets.

Taylor will be New Zealand's enforcer. It is not about the pace of scoring, it is the underlying threat that he can take the game away.

Teams news

New Zealand have a pretty settled combination with Corey Anderson batting at No. 6 and wicketkeeper BJ Watling coming in at No. 7. They have resisted the temptation of playing four quicks, which means Doug Bracewell will sit out, making this a big match for the India-born legspinner Ish Sodhi, against some of the best players of spin.

New Zealand 1 Peter Fulton, 2 Hamish Rutherford, 3 Kane Williamson, 4 Ross Taylor, 5 Brendon McCullum (capt.), 6 Corey Anderson, 7 BJ Watling, 8 Tim Southee, 9. Neil Wagner, 10 Trent Boult, 11 Ish Sodhi

India won't be changing their top seven from the Durban Test unless they see a really flat pitch and play five bowlers with MS Dhoni batting at No. 6 and R Ashwin at 7. Don't hold your breath, though. Ravindra Jadeja should be rewarded with a place ahead of Ashwin, and Ishant Sharma should compete with Bhuvneshwar Kumar for the third seamer's slot. Ishant's height and pace might go for him, but Bhuvneshwar had a much better ODI series.

India 1 M Vijay, 2 Shikhar Dhawan, 3 Cheteshwar Pujara, 4 Virat Kohli, 5 Rohit Sharma, 6 Ajinkya Rahane, 7 MS Dhoni (capt. & wk), 8 Ravindra Jadeja, 9 Zaheer Khan, 10 Mohammed Shami, 11 Bhuvneshwar Kumar/ Ishant Sharma

Pitch and conditions

There is a bit of grass on the Eden Park pitch, McCullum said, but not enough to make New Zealand play four quicks. "Decent covering of grass," he said. "Funny-looking grass, too, at one end. Good hard surface. Expect more bounce than it had against England. A bit of pace in it as well. Don't expect a huge amount of movement sideways, but it might just be enough." India won all the tosses in the ODI series without much impact, but McCullum will do anything to win one here, because batting first will be difficult.

The weather forecast is not great with showers forecast on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Stats and trivia

  • Three of Zaheer Khan's seven away five-fors have come in New Zealand.
  • No spinner other than Daniel Vettori has taken 50 wickets in New Zealand.
  • As was the case with South Africa's batsmen, India coach Duncan Fletcher has worked as a consultant with the New Zealand batsmen too.
  • Taylor, who reached the 4000-run mark during the series against West Indies, took 94 innings to get there, only one more than the fastest New Zealander to the mark, Martin Crowe.

Quotes

"Bowlers are going pretty good at the moment. They are bowling well in partnerships. They are getting the ball to swing in the air, they are also pretty hostile when they get the chance to bowl at the tail. The way our seamers have been operating has been one of the most pleasing aspects of our Test game this summer."
Brendon McCullum trusts his bowlers

"We have not capitalised when we had crucial situations in the game. If you talk about the last series we played [against South Africa], we had one bad session, two-and-a-half hours of bad cricket that we played. We have seen in this format, it can have a big impact on the game. It is important that when we are in a situation where we can dictate terms, it is very important we go through that phase and keep building on it."
MS Dhoni on India's recent Test performances

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • IndTheBest on February 5, 2014, 21:55 GMT

    History repeats by itself. Dhoni won the toss 6th time, played Ishant as usual, only four bowlers in the team and next will lose the game. Sad story, I'd rather prefer to lose the toss and win a match. Someone needs to remind Dhoni that they are their to play game of cricket not to play coin/toss.

  • kiwicricketnut on February 5, 2014, 21:48 GMT

    maybe your right Gagg but i do remember us picking another spinner pretty much fresh out of school with no first class record to speak of, picked solely on talent and strangely enough after taking a hammering early on in his career he went on to be our greastest spinner ever, no reason why sohdi can't follow the vettori blueprint some guys are just that talented.

  • Temuzin on February 5, 2014, 21:24 GMT

    Its tough time for team India. All the bowlers tried on foreign pitches so far have been disappointing. Even though fans clearly have their favorites but all of the bowlers are more or less of same stock. No tear away bowler or a warne or a murali is in their team. Heck India doesn't even have an ajmal. Most of the bowlers such as yadav, bhuvi, shami,, zaheer, ishant, mishra, ashwin, ojha jaddu are all tried and tested before with varying degree of mediocre success. Fans have been happy and unhappy with all of them at some point of time. Team management and Dhoni must be having hard time to pick one over another. While fans have their own favorites based on their personal opinions, Coaches and captain must be observing all of them in the nets. And I believe they are selecting best playing 11 on that basis. But the risk for them is that fans will always be unhappy if their choice of bowler or batsman is not selected. Its really tough to be coach and captain of team India.

  • JBNZ on February 5, 2014, 21:11 GMT

    kiwicricketnut is close to the only one on here who makes any sense. Nathan McCullum's darts will never be any use in Test match cricket and we did alright out of the last untested spinner who got a decent, extended shot in the NZ side. Also, any suggestion that Milne (still injured, remember) or Bennett (only just back from injury, remember), who have both shown to be prone to injury from their high-impact actions should be playing Test cricket is ludicrous. Bracewell shouldn't be there, but those two aren't the answer right now.

  • crying_game on February 5, 2014, 21:05 GMT

    India did win another home test against england- at Ahmedabad, since 2011.

  • dummy4fb on February 5, 2014, 20:54 GMT

    The India overseas Test series should composed of a bowling attack which needs more pace/bounce than swing unless they are in England. Since the NZ side is weaker than SA and Australia they can like with that and can play swing of Zaheer, Bhuvi and Shami. This is a swing attack rather than pace and bounce.

    I would still prefer Yadav, Aaron and Shami because they are a weaker side compared to SA and Oz. Average pace for this is about 144 kph, for Yadav, 143 kph for Aaron and 136 kph for Shami. This the quickest ever in its since 1932 for India. Since Aaron is in India playing the Rest of India and Yadav on the bench it is a bit upsetting to miss Yadav and Aaron.

    After the WC win we have tried to incorporate the two fast bowlers in the Test side but the preference for Bhuvi is picked over Yadav and Aaron.

  • dummy4fb on February 5, 2014, 20:44 GMT

    u have gOt to b kiddin me...even thinkin about him ahead of yadav or perhaps pandey.i mean sharma is as docile a bowler as joginder sharma..might as well have him in d side given he would bat a bit as well.... i

  • StevieS on February 5, 2014, 20:24 GMT

    Well I wouldn't select someone that has a first class bowling average of close to 50 thats for sure. Potential is not a reason to pick a test bowler. You learn how to play by playing first class cricket. How you can say he is our best spin bowler when he averages about 50 in every form of the game. McCullums comment was shocking, "the Indians may go after him and that could create chances", yeah I can also bowl pies! You pick your bowlers on wicket taking ability period! anSo we should pick 4 seamesr. Spin for spin sake is just crazy.

  • BatBowlCatch on February 5, 2014, 20:00 GMT

    If New Zealand can get the best out of their bowlers working as a pack then India won't stand a chance. Time for a good one from Brendon McCullum and the openers. NZ can't rely on Williamson and Taylor all the time. Don't know about Ish Sodhi. I don't think we should have a leggie just because we can. I think Nathan McCullum deserves a shot at Test level. Time for India's new breed to stand up on overseas conditions. Especially Dhawan and Pujara. Both so much promise but still not done a lot away from home. The pace attack ...... yeah! You need a reasonable pace attack in New Zealand and this is where India will fail. Dev, Srinath, Zaheer and now there is nobody leading the charge. Can't wait to get started. Fulton for a century.

  • dummy4fb on February 5, 2014, 19:40 GMT

    i seriously dont know why we are all going so gaga over Zaheer being in the team. Zaheer looked a pale shadow of himself of the past from the 2nd innings of the 1st test in South africa. Zaks, Ishant just didnt look like they could have picked up wickets. Batting in SA though was encouraging with the only chinx in the armour being SHikhar because he lacks technique. ROhit can be given the long rope because there is none better to replce him. My playing eleven if at all INdia wants to win: SHikhar, Murali V , Pujara, Kohli, Rahane, Rohit, DHoni, Jadeja, Ishwar P, Shami, Yadav. Come on INDIA. and for god's sake , DHoni start making wise choices. Ishant and ZAheer a big NO , they cant even contain nor can pick up wickets.