THE KIWIS CAN SPOIL INDIA’S PERFECT RECORD
India’s tour of New Zealand concludes with a two-Test series through the end of February after what has been compelling viewing throughout the T20I and One-Day International (ODI) legs of their trip. India came out of the blocks quickly to seal a 5-0 series win in the shortest format, although the matches included two Super Overs and were tighter than the scoreline suggests. The ODIs saw New Zealand bounce back to claim the ODI series 3-0. That white ball backdrop sets up an intriguing Test series beautifully.
India have ruled the roost in Test cricket of late. Can the Kiwis unsettle a Virat Kohli side that have taken a maximum of 360 World Test Championship (WTC) points from their three series so far? James Buttler finds the best bets…
ARE INDIA THE REAL DEAL?
India have sailed through their three Tests series in the WTC so far. Maximum points, the only side yet to lose a Test in the inaugural competition, the Virat Kohli-led team are all but guaranteed their place in the Lord’s final next summer.
The two Tests against New Zealand herald the beginning of the second half of India’s WTC campaign. They have the obvious confidence that abundant recent success brings.
Virat Kohli is the best batsman in the world across all formats, but his captaincy has been questioned. Sometimes too reactive, he appears to be growing as a tactician. His defence of the future of Test cricket has also been hugely important for the format.
Forget New Zealand’s ODI success, the red ball arena is a completely different challenge and one that India are used to bossing. Away from home, they whitewashed West Indies 2-0, and on home soil, beat South Africa 3-0 and Bangladesh 2-0. The opposition was not of the highest standard but Indian pummelled them as they claimed victory by at least 200 runs or an innings in each of the seven Tests.
India have one foot in next year’s final, but the challenge gets no easier with this series against New Zealand followed by a series in Australia and then a home series against England.
If India win in New Zealand this time around it will be the third time they have tasted Test success in the country. In 1968 MAK Pataudi was the winning captain and MS Dhoni led his country to victory in 2009. Virat Kohli is a driven man and will be keen to add his name to that area of Indian history.
CAN KANE’S KIWIS CAUSE A SHOCK?
New Zealand beat England 1-0 in their recent two-match series and on home soil are a threat to anyone. The 3-0 defeat in Australia over New Year was a major disappointment for a side that travelled with victory in their plans. And that loss means that after playing five matches they are a disappointing sixth in the WTC table and are fourth in the ICC Test Rankings.
Kane Williamson is an astute leader and the Kiwis can certainly give India a run for their money over the two matches. Williamson has only suffered one home Test defeat in 17 matches since he took charge and that was against South Africa way back in 2017. They have won seven home series in a row since then.
It is tempting to look at India’s recent record and think that they are invincible, therefore their opponents unbackable. That may not be the case. Much of India’s dominance has come on home soil where conditions favour them and are alien to many of the best sides. In away series in similar conditions that they will find in New Zealand they have come unstuck. India lost in England, South Africa and creeped 2-1 by a Sandpapergate hit Australia. The last time India toured New Zealand the Kiwis took the two-game series 1-0.
The ODI series win is possibly more of a gauge than the T20I series defeat and the Kiwis are a big price to take the Test series. It’s a price that is well worthy of a nibble ay 9/4 with Bet365. They have more than a punchers chance in a short series, but you can cover a few bases with a punt at 11/10 with 10Cric (India) to remove the possibility of a draw (Draw No Bet).
Also, judging by the placid pitches in the recent series against England, there could easily be a drawn game amongst the two Tests. Playing New Zealand to take the series 1-0 might be the best betting route.
WILLIAMSON THE PEDIGREE BATSMAN
The experienced Ross Taylor showed some serious form in the white-ball leg of the tour and the Blackcaps with be happy to see Kane Williamson back in their side. Williamson is the obvious bet to be the Kiwi’s leading run scorer in this short series. It depends on whether you want to ride on the back of a favourite that deserves the tag or seek a higher price elsewhere. For non-Williamson backers, BJ Watling showed is ability to back big and long against England and will come into this series in confident mode. Tom Latham is also worthy of consideration and has a good record against India.
One reason to oppose Williamson is that India are the only country that he averages below 40 against. The flipside of that argument is that he possesses too much quality to let that either affect him or for it to continue too long.
AGARWAL HAS BEEN SUBLIME
Mayank Agarwal and Rishabh Pant both scored second innings fifties in Wellington as the three-day practice game against a New Zealand XI ended in a draw. The Indians had struggled first time around but made 252 for four in their second dig with Pant getting a much-needed score after a poor run.
Agarwal will open the batting in the 1st Test after a stellar 2019. The 29-year-old averages 67.07 in his nine Tests and has cemented his place at the top of the order. He had begun to build a strong opening partnership with Rohit Sharme but, with Rohit injured, it opens the door for either Shubman Gill or Privthi Shaw.
Agarwal is a real play to be top run scorer for the Indians after topping the charts against Bangladesh with 257 runs at 127.50 and coming second (behind the now absent Rohit) against South Africa with 340 runs at 85.00.
Virat Kohli averages 66.81 in Tests against the Kiwis in seven Tests against them and hit three centuries. The temptation is to back Kohli, but in a two-match series, where India may only bat two or three times, it makes sense to take the increased betting value Agarwal offers.
WAGNER TO CALL THE TUNE
The hosts would be wise to serve up pitches that suit the seamers and with Trent Boult and Neil Wagner included in the New Zealand squad they have every chance of success. Boult has recovered from a hand injury that has kept him out of recent games.
Wagner was hugely impressive when the Kiwis hosted England at the end of 2019 and if there is any movement Boult is always a handful. India have come a cropper when the ball has swung overseas. The left-armer took a leading 13 wickets in the series against England and 17 in the three matches against Australia. He runs in with his chest puffed out when other heads have dropped and reaps the rewards for his up and at them perseverance. Wagner has dismissed Virat Kohli on three occasions in Test cricket and that may be another good reason to back him.
Just bear in mind however that Wagner is awaiting the birth of his first child and may miss the first Test. Matt Henry has been called into the squad as cover. In such a short series, missing one Test effectively excludes a player from being leading wicket-taker and that may make the returning Boult a better option to take most Indian wickets.
SHAMI KEEPS ON TAKING WICKETS
In the warmup game, Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami showed their seam quality as they bowled the Kiwi side out for 235. In New Zealand the spin of India will be nullified somewhat and therefore the experienced pace men are the betting play.
Ishant Sharma was struggling with an ankle injury, was a surprise inclusion in the squad and could be an outside pick in this market.
Shami collected three scalps to Bumrah’s two and Shami has been prolific for India in the last year. Given that Shami took 33 Test wickets at 16.66 in 2019 to Bumrah’s 14 at 13.14 (played less due to injury), he is worth taking a punt on in this market.
1 unit on New Zealand to win the series against India 1-0 at 5/1 with bet365
2 units on Kane Williamson to be Top NZ Series Batsman at 2/1 with bet365
1 unit on Mayank Agarwal to be India Top Series Batsman at 4/1 with bet365
1 unit on Trent Boult to be Top NZ Series Bowler at 9/4 with bet365
1 unit on Mohammad Shami to be Top India Series Bowler at 11/4 with bet365
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