Venue: Hagley Oval, Christchurch
Date: Saturday, February 29, 2020 – Wednesday, March 4, 200
We are down to the final Test match of the long Indian tour of New Zealand before the tourists return to the subcontinent. India began the tour by off five consecutive wins in the five T20I matches that were played between the two countries. This included a pair of wins in the Super Over – a game-deciding feature that has become a problem for the Black Caps in recent times – in matches three and four. New Zealand then fought back by winning all three ODIs that the two sides played before opening up their two-Test series in Wellington last week.
India came into the match unbeaten in Test match cricket in 14 months and undefeated in the ICC World Test Championship. The No. 1 team in the world could not break their curse in Wellington, a place where they have now failed to win since 1968. New Zealand was patient and disciplined at the crease, beating India by ten wickets after bowling them out for 191 in their second innings. Needing only nine runs to win the contest, New Zealand put the game to bed in just ten balls for their emphatic win.
Holding India to innings of 165 and 191 in a Test match is no small feat. Tim Southee was dominant with the ball in hand – he put up figures of 5/61 in the second Indian innings – and the Black Caps first innings score of 348 quickly began to look like a great total the more that the under-pressure India batsmen made basic errors to lose their wickets.
India now needs a big bounce-back game in Christchurch to stop this tour ending on a sour note.
New Zealand has no major issues with its squad for this second Test and if anything coach Gary Stead has a selection issue based on the outstanding form of his players. Neil Wagner will be returning to camp after the birth of his first daughter and his presence will give the Black Caps four frontline seamers to choose from. Southee and Trent Boult are automatic inclusions, while Kyle Jamieson was mightly impressive on debut last time out in the place of Wagner.
The question becomes if the Black Caps need all four bowlers in the team or will Ajaz Patel keep his place as a spinner. Patel bowled just six overs in the first Test, but it could be argued that his change of style is important to have in the locker should the Test match go in a different direction. This is a seamer-friendly wicket and that will also be a consideration for selection.
Virat Kohli was very open and honest when talking about the failings of India in the first Test. He is aware that the team just didn’t perform on the day, with his batting lineup unable to adjust to the conditions of the pitch and the way that the New Zealand bowling stable attacked.
Changes need to be made, though much of that will likely come from within as Kohli himself has underwhelmed on this tour and passed 50 just once. Don’t be shocked to see KL Rahul come into the side at the top of the order following his impressive one-day form as it is clear that the absence of Rohit Sharma has really affected the rhythm of India’s batting attack. The selectors could also choose to take a flyer on Shubma Gill who was dominant at for India A against their New Zealand counterparts a couple of weeks ago.
As you can see from the odds at BetXChange, bookmakers are struggling to pick a favorite for this Test match. It is hard to see India not winning a Test having been so dominant in the format for so long, but injuries and a lack of form makes them hard to back at this point. New Zealand has won its last five series at home – and eight of the last ten – and they will do enough here to take a 2-0 series win over their visitors at 1.25 with BetXChange.