Cricket

New Zealand favourites as Southee set to return


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Two sessions of fortitude – that was about as much as West Indies could summon at the Basin Reserve. Either side of their third-day resistance, however, the visitors appeared outmatched with bat and ball – New Zealand’s batsmen cruising to big scores, and their bowlers more or less running riot. That West Indies will be without captain Jason Holder – suspended due to an over-rate violation – and that the hosts are likely to have Tim Southee back in their XI would seem to make the disparity between these teams even greater.

And yet, there is unpredictability about West Indies that suggests New Zealand will not stroll to victory with quite so much ease, at Seddon Park. In August, having been walloped witless by England at Edgbaston, the likes of Shai Hope and Kraigg Brathwaite scripted a wonderful comeback win at Headingley. Last year, having been defeated handsomely by Pakistan in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, West Indies had also triumphed in Sharjah. This young West Indies side has sometimes been overwhelmed in Tests, but over the last year they have also refused to cede trophies without a fight – winning at least one Test in each of their last four series.

Such is New Zealand’s confidence at home, however, and so in form are their batsmen, that they will expect to pile on more big scores at Hamilton. The West Indies attack, intense only in short bursts at the Basin Reserve, has major improvements to make if their team is to square the series.

Form guide

New Zealand WDLDW (last five completed matches, most recent first)
West Indies LDWLW

In the spotlight

He may have crept up on the competition, but over the past three years Neil Wagner has become one of the best quicks in the world. That he has only 139 wickets to his name is a reflection of the scarcity of Test cricket for New Zealand. The figure that makes for more impressive reading, however, is his average of 23.44 since 2015. Among quicks, only James Anderson and Kagiso Rabada have bettered him in that period. The challenge for Wagner is to sustain his success as more and more teams become wise to his unique mode of operation, and devise batting plans specifically to counter him.

A number of batsmen did get the better of Wagner in the second innings at Wellington, however – among them: 20-year-old Shimron Hetmyer. Having been dismissed by Wagner in the first innings, Hetmyer scored 21 runs off 18 Wagner deliveries in the second dig, pulling him disdainfully on two occasions, and cracking him for offside boundaries as well. But Wagner was not the only bowler Hetmyer attacked – Trent Boult and Mitchell Santner also went for runs during what was a sparkling maiden half-century. There is talent here for sure, but New Zealand will be more prepared for him in Hamilton.

Team news

With Southee set to come back in, the seamer most likely to make way seems to be Matt Henry, despite Henry’s second innings three-wicket haul in Wellington. As BJ Watling remains unavailable, Tom Blundell will be the home side’s wicketkeeper-batsman again.

New Zealand 1 Jeet Raval, 2 Tom Latham, 3 Kane Williamson (capt), 4 Ross Taylor, 5 Henry Nicholls, 6 Mitchell Santner, 7 Colin de Grandhomme, 8 Tom Blundell (wk), 9 Tim Southee, 10 Neil Wagner, 11 Trent Boult

Brathwaite is set to lead the visitors in Holders’ stead. Fast bowler Alzarri Joseph or uncapped left-arm quick Raymon Reifer may come into the side to replace him.

West Indies 1 Kraigg Brathwaite (capt) 2 Kieran Powell, 3 Shimron Hetmeyer, 4 Shai Hope, 5 Roston Chase, 6 Sunil Ambris, 7 Shane Dowrich (wk), 8 Raymon Reifer, 9 Kemar Roach, 10 Miguel Cummins, 11 Shannon Gabriel

Pitch and conditions

The match will be played on a surface comprising Patumahoe soil, which means there is likely to be pace, bounce and carry right through the Test. There is some rain forecast for Sunday and Monday, with cloudy patches expected for the remainder of the Test.

Stats and trivia

  • Of bowlers with more than 50 wickets since 2015, Wagner’s strike rate of 46.2 is third best, after Rabada and Mitchell Starc

  • New Zealand have won three of their last four Tests at Seddon Park – one of those victories having come against West Indies in 2013

  • Shai Hope needs 42 runs to complete 1000 runs in Tests



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