India will take on New Zealand in the first Test of the series, with the visitors hoping to carry on the good form that they have showed so far in the World Test Championship.
The fascinating India's tour of New Zealand enters its final leg with the first of two Tests, beginning in Wellington on Friday. As is clear from the way the tour has gone so far, it's incredibly hard to call, with both sides fancying their chances.
India first. They are atop the ICC rankings and the World Test Championship, with 360 points from three series. They're yet to lose a game in the WTC, winning each of their seven matches, each of them comfortably. Virat Kohli's men have often spoken about prioritising Test cricket, and the results are showing; they didn't lose a single Test in 2019.
The challenge will be stiffer this year though, for they're not scheduled to play at home. The only Tests scheduled till now are ones in New Zealand and Australia. They've shown remarkable improvement in playing overseas in recent times, culminating in their maiden series victory in Australia last year. They'll be keen to continue the trend and make a strong beginning and a statement in the first series of the new decade.
It won't be easy though, for New Zealand are a strong side at home. They have only 60 points from two series in the WTC, and are coming after a 0-3 whitewash in Australia. However, their performances in New Zealand tell a different story; they've 11 of their last 13 Test series at home, including five in a row.
India not only have a settled unit, but also a problem of plenty. They have selection calls to make - Prithvi Shaw or Shubman Gill? R Ashwin or Ravindra Jadeja? Is Ishant Sharma fit enough? The lanky pacer underwent a fitness test on the eve of the game and it remains to be seen if India will play him. If not, they have another experienced pacer in Umesh Yadav, or a promising quick in Navdeep Saini, as replacement options. Jasprit Bumrah is set to return to Tests while Mohammed Shami will continue to do his thing.
Here are the predicted XIs for both sides ahead of the encounter.
India: Prithvi Shaw, Mayank Agarwal, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (C), Ajinkya Rahane, Hanuma Vihari, Rishabh Pant (WK), Ravindra Jadeja, Shardul Thakur, Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma, and Jasprit Bumrah
New Zealand: Tom Blundell, Tom Latham, Kane Williamson (C), Ross Taylor, Henry Nicholls, BJ Watling (WK), Colin de Grandhomme, Ajaz Patel, Trent Boult, Tim Southee, and Neil Wagner/ Kyle Jamieson.
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