New Zealand vs West Indies: First Test Preview

Batsman faces bowler in front of packed cordon

We preview the first Test between New Zealand and the West Indies which is set to get underway on 1 December at the Basin Reserve. 

New Zealand have not played a Test match since March, haven't won in the longest format of the international game since January - and haven't beaten a top-tier nation in five-day cricket since November 2016.

The West Indies have fared substantially better, having triumphed over a resurgent Zimbabwe XI recently - and forced a series draw against England, in challenging conditions in Leeds, three months ago.

New Zealand v West Indies | 1 December - December | Basin Reserve, Wellington 

To Win Match
New Zealand 1/3 | Draw 15/4 | West Indies 6/1

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New Zealand
Despite recent form and opportunity, the Black Caps are still four positions superior in the International Cricket Council's rankings for Test teams. Perennial underdogs no matter who they face, they are always significantly favoured in home conditions.

Tom Blundell will likely debut in the absence of the injured BJ Watling, unless Tom Latham is thrown the wicketkeeping gloves. Adequate behind the stumps in ODI or T20I cricket, Latham is best placed as a specialist batsman in Test match competition, though.

Lockie Ferguson, too, could play. Tim Southee is effectively on paternity leave - and might not be back in time. Ferguson's presence would add an extra injection of pace to an attack otherwise spearheaded by speedster Trent Boult. The pair in tandem would make for entertaining viewing.

Their batting ranks, admittedly, seem a touch on the light side. A lot of runs will be required from Ross Taylor and Kane Williamson, while Henry Nicholls needs to find a way to convert a string of promising starts into innings of genuine substance.

Latham and fellow opener Jeet Ravel were rather unimpressive against opposition pace aces Kemar Roach, Jason Holder and Shannon Gabriel for New Zealand A. They both need to improve against the extra pace and carry generated by the lanky trio, particularly when the ball is also swinging and seaming.

West Indies
The tourists have forgone Kyle Hope and instead opted for Sunil Ambris, who will face a staunch test against Boult and company. The 24-year-old played well on ODI debut against England in September - and put in a big century against New Zealand A last week, so is a promising prospect.

A maiden Test series victory for captain Holder would have done his confidence in his own ability as a leader the world of good. A follow-up win in Wellington would be even better. Holder certainly commands the respect of the bowling attack - and hopefully Jermaine Blackwood and batting colleagues will continue to follow suit.

Coach Stuart Law is lavish in praise when it's due, but equally harsh when ill-discipline creeps in. A long way from home, the impressionable tourists need to find their collective groove, quickly. Proper experience is thin among the squad, so some of the senior statesman like Gabriel will need to step up.

From the cold experienced in Zimbabwe to substantially sunnier climes in Wellington, the West Indies can look forward to weather more akin to that experienced in the Caribbean. This bodes well for their match fitness, which is often in question, overall.

They must also ensure they don't relent when on top of the opposition. They initially brought plenty to the party - with bat and ball - against New Zealand A, but floundered toward the end. They simply cannot afford to repeat these fumbles in the series opener.

Verdict: New Zealand 1/3
The Kiwis have lost only one of their last Test seven series against the West Indies. That was in 2012, in the Caribbean. They have not lost to their fellow islanders, at home, in almost two dozen years. The streak won't likely be broken this time.

Written by Jonhenry Wilson for Hollywoodbets

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