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30 May 2024

New Zealand confident of India upset in first Test

Brendon McCullum of New Zealand bats during game four of the one day international series between New Zealand and India at Seddon Park on January 28, 2014 in Hamilton, New Zealand. (GETTY)


New Zealand are quietly confident of being able to exploit the green state of the Eden Park wicket and upset India in the first Test starting in Auckland on Thursday.

A combination of a bowler-friendly pitch and the success of the same XI, who won back-to-back Tests in similar conditions against the West Indies in December, meant the selection was a no brainer for captain Brendon McCullum.

"It's a bit of both. It's a nice luxury to be able to continue with the same team, and obviously the pitch as well," he said on Wednesday.

It was definitely a bowl-first wicket, he added, with New Zealand intent on continuing the short-pitched attack that proved to be India's undoing in the just completed one-day series won by New Zealand 4-0.

The home captain was also unfazed by the huge gulf in the rankings between the two sides, where India are second to New Zealand's lowly eighth.

"We know how tough a challenge it is but we've got a quiet confidence that if we continue to bowl and field as well as we have done this summer then we can expose some of the not-so-strong aspects of their game."

The pitch has "a decent covering of grass" and the promise of more bounce than when New Zealand had England on the ropes here last year, only to be denied victory by a heroic century from Matt Prior on the final day.

While New Zealand were confident enough to name their side 24 hours before the toss, India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni was more circumspect in delaying naming his side as late as possible.

He also batted away any suggestion that India's well-documented failings against the short-pitched deliveries in the one-day series would have a bearing on the Tests.

"The plus point in Test matches is you can pick and choose," he said, adding that India were hampered in the ODIs by their openers not setting a solid enough platform.

"If you don't get too many runs in the first 10 (overs) it means the middle order when they come in have to play those strokes because the asking rate keeps on rising if you keep leaving them."

Dhoni gave little away about India's approach other than indicating left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja could expect to occupy one end for long periods while he rotated his pace attack from the other.

Pace bowler Zaheer Khan and batsmen Murali Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara are likely to be the only new faces in the Tests.

Pujara, boasting an impressive average of 66.25 from his 28 Test innings, will add much needed solidity to the batting line up.

New Zealand, however, by rewarding their victorious unit who beat the West Indies have retained Peter Fulton and Hamish Rutherford as openers and cannot be guaranteed a sound start.

Fulton and Rutherford produced a 158-run stand in their first Test as an opening partnership but have drifted down to average 30.91 in 16 innings since then.

New Zealand: Brendon McCullum (Capt.), Peter Fulton, Hamish Rutherford, Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor, Corey Anderson, BJ Watling, Tim Southee, Ish Sodhi, Neil Wagner, Trent Boult.