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New Zealand v West Indies Test Series Preview

November 21, 2013

When the West Indies last visited New Zealand the captain was Dan Vettori, the coach was newly appointed Andy Moles and the CEO was Justin Vaughan. The Black Caps side that drew the two tests featured two players likely to be involved in this series. Just five years later and it isn’t just that things have changed, they managed to change and change again.

Thankfully the last five years have seen the West Indies encounter similar issues, they have just three players back from 2008, and though they are ranked comfortably ahead of us across all three formats the test series should be close and perhaps even in New Zealand’s favour.

Since the West Indies beat the Black Caps 2-0 last year the West Indies have handled Bangladesh and Zimbabwe and been absolutely annihilated by India – the West Indians only getting in six days cricket in the two match series. The Black Caps on the other hand were poor then good to lose twice in India, poor then good to lose and then win in Sri Lanka, destroyed by South Africa, competitive at home to England, noncompetitive away to England and then disappointing away to Bangladesh. What relevance this form guide has for a series in New Zealand conditions is unknown.

New Zealand

Projected team – Fulton, Rutherford, Brownlie, Taylor, McCullum, Anderson, Watling, Vettori, Southee, Wagner, Boult.

Peter Fulton – Continued his late career run in Bangladesh by passing fifty twice. This position is likely Fulton’s until he falters with Martin Guptill (still unfit) or Jeet Raval (still not ready) the most likely to move into his spot. Though I wouldn’t rule out a late career reprieve similar to Fulton’s for Aaron Redmond who has ties to the coach and captain and already has one first class century this season. Whoever the replacement might be Fulton has the power to make them wait if he can keep scoring runs.

Hamish Rutherford – Take out his debut hundred and Rutherford averages 21.46 and is only facing 39 balls per innings. If that sort of form continues deep into this summer I think it is going to be very hard to persist with him until he has spent more time in first class cricket. I have mentioned this before but I wouldn’t be playing him in limited overs cricket, it doesn’t help his test game and he isn’t particularly good at it.

Dean Brownlie – After a fighting hundred in South Africa Brownlie struggled against England. I still think he deserves to be the first batsman into the team when the opportunity presents itself as it has with Williamson’s injury. This West Indies series will be a very good opportunity for Brownlie to get some runs and put some pressure on the incumbents.

Ross Taylor – Taylor only trails Crowe, Wright, Astle and Fleming in the list of New Zealand’s all time hundred makers and of those five only Crowe has a better rate than Taylor’s hundred every 11.3 innings. The more buzz worthy statement is that he hasn’t hit a hundred in the 12 innings since he was stripped of the captaincy. Boiling all this together I think he is due and will deliver on that this series.

Brendon McCullum – Talking about players that are due Brendon McCullum is like a pregnant mum entering her 42nd week – that baby needs to come or there will be some serious complications for Mother Brendon. McCullum has now batted 46 times since that double hundred in India and averages 30.6 in that time period. During the last home series against England McCullum passed 50 in every match and along with his dynamic captaincy it was starting to look like a brilliant move to hand him the reigns but in the four tests since he hasn’t passed 22. The continuing theme with McCullum is that his role in the batting line up is constantly changing. Since the tour of the West Indies last year McCullum has batted everywhere from 1 to 7 and played once as a specialist keeper (note: he only actually batted at number 4 due to the presence of the nightwatchman but I didn’t want to ruin my good story) so is it any wonder he can’t find any form. His best success in that period comes at number 6 but it seems that position is Corey Anderson’s so McCullum will again find himself suffering for the better of the team.

Corey Anderson – After a hard hitting hundred in his second test expectations of Anderson are pretty high. Those expectations should be tempered by the fact the hundred came on an extremely flat wicket and Anderson showed a disturbing trait of having to play at every delivery, a trait which is going to cause you serious trouble when the wicket has the tiniest bit of life in it. He also has a reputation as an all rounder which is not backed up by his domestic bowling stats (less than a wicket a game). Somehow New Zealand needs to combine Anderson’s batting with Neesham’s bowling into one all rounder called Andersham. In the absence of that I think we have an all rounder who is a bit more Franklin than Cairns.

BJ Watling – Just quietly BJ Watling is becoming one of the most valuable commodities in the New Zealand team. In matches that he has been the specialist keeper he averages 47.66 and although that is propped up by three scores against Zimbawe and Bangladesh he also had a number of rear guard 60’s against England and South Africa, something the likes of Kruger van Wyk, Reece Young or Gareth Hopkins never delivered. On the negative side Watling seems to be a terrible starter with four golden ducks in 28 bats including three in 2013, take those golden ducks out and his average jumps to 40 and to 63 as a specialist keeper so that is something he really should work on.

Daniel Vettori – Assuming he is fit I think he slides back into the side over Ish Sodhi. Vettori is definitely in decline, since 2009 he has 74 wickets at 39 compared to an average of 33 prior to this point. What is more troubling is that his balls per wicket has blown out to 96 since 2009 compared to 75 prior to this. All that being said declining Vettori is still significantly better than peak-Martin who takes his lucky wickets at 1 every 127 balls.

Tim Southee – Since Southee returned from being dropped in 2012 he has 41 wickets at 23.66 including 7-64 in India, 5-62 in the victory in Sri Lanka and got his name on the Lord’s honours board with 10 wickets. He is a legitimate attack leader and he isn’t even 25 yet. My one concern is he is the only real three format bowler we have and he has missed a lot of time recently with injuries so workload management is starting to become a major concern.

Neil Wagner – After a slow start to his test career Wagner has started to show the type of ability that lead to him being a terror on the domestic scene. He has taken at least one wicket in every innings he has bowled in this year and five wickets on a flat deck in Bangladesh was a good reward for some toiling efforts. He doesn’t have Boult or Southee’s ability to move the ball and he seems to have dropped his pace a bit as well but he is a quality third paceman.

Trent Boult – Though I am yet to formally do the research I am under the impression that Boult is among the more unlucky bowlers. Catches seem to go down and deflections go for four rather than into stumps off his bowling. Boult’s year has largely been defined by a superb effort against England in the Auckland test where he took 6-86. With a new ball Boult can always extract swing but he does seem to go missing a bit with an older ball in unfavourable conditions.

Kane Williamson – Possibly back for the second or third test. His career average is on a gradual climb and still compares favourably to Crowe’s at the same age – Williamson 1635 runs at 34.78 with four hundreds, Crowe 1,422 runs at 34.69 with three hundreds. But Crowe took off over the next two years scoring 1,136 runs at 63.12 with five hundreds and he never really let up until injuries sapped his effectiveness and will almost ten years later. Williamson still has that sort of potential but he hasn’t cashed in like Crowe did in converting fifties to hundreds (Williamson 4 hundreds and 14 times to fifty for 29%, Crowe 17/35 for 49%) and scoring additional runs after the century (Williamson 82 additional runs at 20.50, Crowe 720 additional runs at 42.36). Even early in his career Crowe was already good at both these things (3/8 for 38% and 176 additional runs at 58.67). Until Williamson starts doing these things he isn’t going to get close to emulating Crowe.

Jesse Ryder – I suspect that Ryder will not be back for this test series even though he has made a great start to the domestic season. I don’t think Ryder fills in for Kane Williamson at number three so bringing Ryder in will mean yet another move in the order for Brendon McCullum and that doesn’t seem fair to a player that is under a bit of pressure and should have some stability. Ryder has been very successful against India with all three of his hundreds against them so perhaps that is the ideal time for his return.

Martin Guptill – Currently out with an injured ankle and even when fit he has fallen in the pecking order. After his struggles against Swann conventional wisdom suggested that he struggles against spin so I thought I would have a look at the stats to see what was happening. Andrew at Sports Worship has done some work on aggro factor (compares a batsman’s strike rate and boundary rate to peers) and balls faced per dismissal which revealed some interesting things in relation to Guptill. I wanted to take this a little further by looking Guptill’s splits against pace and spin. Guptill’s balls faced per dismissal is almost identical between pace and spin (69.23 pace versus 69.89 spin). But there is a huge gap between his aggro rates – against pace Guptill has an aggro rate of +4 while against spin he has a rate of -31 which is incredibly low. The conclusion I draw is that Guptill has no idea how to score of spin and this leads to confusion on how to play or just getting bogged down rather than an obvious flaw in his technique. Guptill should just keep doing what he is doing against pace and start looking to smash around the spinners and see what happens rather than dying by 50 blocks.

Tom Latham – The keeper of the future will probably hang around the squad in between domestic commitments. Watling does miss a few games through injuries and I suspect next time he does they will give the opportunity to Latham (or perhaps Ronchi) rather than press McCullum back behind the stumps again.

Doug Bracewell – After taking 5/85 in his first test match and 6/40 in his third his best return in his subsequent 15 tests is 3/26 (and that came in his fourth test). In 2013 he has 8 wickets at 66.62 and has been generally unimpressive. It doesn’t help that he doesn’t swing the ball much and relies on seam, pace and bounce to take wickets and there was none of that on offer in Bangladesh where he produced series figures of 3/214. He has definitely fallen behind Wagner in the pecking order and his drinking escapades make him at risk of falling behind Gillespie as well.

Ish Sodhi – The most promising leg spinner New Zealand has produced since Clarrie Grimmett. Although Grimmett was only born in New Zealand and played for Australia so taking credit for him probably means the credit for Ish Sodhi should go to India. Still he is promising. The dark art of leg spinning comes with some very bad days but I liked the attacking lines he bowled against Bangladesh, he didn’t resort to just pitching the ball on the off stump or outside off stump to restrict scoring. Hopefully the bad days aren’t the sort of thing that put him off trying to attack.

West Indies

Projected team – Gayle, Powell, Bravo, Samuels, Chanderpaul, Edwards, Ramdin, Sammy, Shillingford, Cottrell, Gabriel.

Chris Gayle – Plays his 100th test in Dunedin. Since Gayle returned to the team last year he has been great against us (one hundred and one fifty in four bats) and pretty rubbish against everyone else (one hundred and zero fifties in 11 bats), hopefully Gayle thinks he is playing Zimbabwe or something.

Kieran Powell – Scored three hundreds in 2012, including one against New Zealand, but has yet to pass fifty in seven bats in 2013 with a high score of 48 in the recent Mumbai Test.

Darren Bravo – Has yet to pass 40 this year in four tests against Zimbabwe and India. Prior to this year he had fashioned a pretty decent record scoring over 1,600 runs at 46.78 but this year’s contribution of 112 further runs at 18.66 doesn’t do his talent any justice.

Marlon Samuels – Maiden double hundred against Bangladesh last November but has not done a lot since. Has yet to play a test in New Zealand but has played well in England and South Africa in the past suggesting he could be well equipped to deal with our traditionally more seam friendly wickets.

Shivnarine Chanderpaul – A year and a half younger than Tendulkar but yet to encounter the decline phase like the Little Master had. Continues to be the West Indies best performing batsman, going back to 2007 in only one year has he not averaged more than 50 and in that time has 4,227 runs at 60.39. Comparatively he has not had much success against New Zealand with an average of 41 and only one hundred.

Kirk Edwards – Some strong recent performances for the A team but hasn’t played a test since last May. Has a test hundred against Bangladesh which isn’t unusual for the the West Indians who are real Bangladesh destroyers – the top seven listed here combine for 11 hundreds against Bangladesh with all contributing at least one. I think Edwards should replace Deonarine who regardless of Chanderpaul comparisons isn’t very good.

Dinesh Ramdin – In five tests against NZ he has 50 runs at an average of 7 but he is a much improved player since those days and has averaged 46.75 over the past two years. Keeping was very sloppy in India but that fit in perfectly with the West Indies overall sloppiness.

Darren Sammy – Comes to NZ with his captaincy under pressure. Has only taken one wicket this year and after some strong performances in 2012 his batting has regressed as well. Since Sammy became the captain the West Indies have generally lost to teams ranked ahead of them and won against teams ranked below with the only exception being drawn series against Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

Shane Shillingford – West Indies’ best performing bowler this year with 30 wickets at 18.20 which represents exactly half of the wickets the West Indies have taken all year. Two problems for Shillingford – conditions not likely to suit him and his action is currently under review so he may not even play, though that is unlikely.

Sheldon Cottrell – Made his test debut in the first test against India and took a solitary wicket, that of Pujara attempting a ramp shot. I still think he offers a lot more than Tino Best and being a left armer adds more variety.

Shannon Gabriel – Has made a decent start to his career with 11 wickets at 23.18. Assuming conditions don’t suit Shillingford the pace attack need to carry a lot more burden than they have been this year – the four fast bowlers on tour have just 12 wickets between them in 2013 and seven of those are Gabriel’s.

Narsingh Deonarine – Career average of 27.68. Came back for the second test in India and scored 21 and 0 so must be nearing or at the end game of his test career.

Chadwick Walton – Apparently he is the back-up keeper. I have never heard of him though he did play two nondescript tests back in 2009.

Veerasammy Permaul – Back up spinner who will only play if Shillingford gets banned or injured.

Tino Best – Debuted back in 2003 and in his 22 tests since then is still best known for being sledged by Andrew Flintoff. Had a good year in 2012 with 18 wickets at 16.27 but this year he has been terrible with just three wickets at 88.66. If he does hold his place he will need to perform in Dunedin to retain it any longer.

The venues

Dunedin, Wellington and Hamilton are the venues for the three test matches and these are important to consider because recent history suggests only one of these venues is a results wicket.

The University Oval in Dunedin has hosted five test matches with New Zealand winning twice and three draws but both of the results happened prior to 2009. The last two tests against South Africa and England have been reasonably comfortable draws. Three of the five games have been significantly impacted by rain including the last West Indies test which was also held in December. Though I can confirm the weather down here has been very good lately I suspect five days of nice weather could be a stretch. Combine that with a batting wicket and I would suspect a draw as the likely result. No first class cricket at University Oval yet this season.

The last three years the Basin Reserve has also produced three draws. In two first class games this season the Basin has seen five centuries and the one result came with Wellington scoring 310 runs from just 61 overs. So this looks like a good wicket for batting that the bowlers will need to work hard to find a result on.

Assuming the wickets play to type that could very well bring us to Seddon Park tied 0-0 and Seddon Park has been a results wicket. The last drawn test at Seddon Park was in 2004 and in the six tests since then play has lasted on average about four days. It is also interesting to note that these matches were all very one sided – New Zealand over England by 189 runs, India by 10 wickets, New Zealand over Bangladesh by 121 runs, Australia by 176 runs, Pakistan by 10 wickets and South Africa by 9 wickets. However, the only first class game at Seddon Park this season did end in a draw with Auckland batting out the last 73 overs of the game for the loss of one wicket against a bowling attack featuring Daniel Vettori and Ish Sodhi.

And to wrap it up

I will be very disappointed if New Zealand lose this series. Considering the pitches will likely favour batting and the lack of form held by the West Indian quick bowlers the Black Caps really should not lose 20 wickets in any test. Even with our history of collapses I just can’t see the West Indians being threatening enough to apply any dressing room panic.

So can we take 20 wickets ourselves? Southee, Boult and Wagner proved they could pick up wickets on unhelpful surfaces against the English last season and the West Indian batting line-up lacks the quality of the English. The problem last season was they faltered at key times in Dunedin and Auckland and had no support from Bruce Martin so finding a contribution from spin could be a huge factor in success or failure.

The other factor playing in the Black Caps favour is the lack of preparation the West Indians are going to get. The warm-up match is two days after the West Indians complete their ODI series against India and the ODI squad contains nine players involved in New Zealand. Aaron Redmond and Jeet Raval have already been confirmed to turn out for the West Indian XI in that warm-up match so a few of the West Indians are going to be under done in Dunedin and that could be a great opportunity.

So prediction time and I am going to go with the Black Caps 1-0.

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One Comment
  1. Less than ten hours and this preview is already out of date. It has been reported that Chris Gayle has a hamstring injury and will be out for the first test at least. Big advantage for NZ who not only get rid of Gayle but the Windies are going to have to rejig their batting line-up to find a new opener.

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