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Ajinkya Rahane
World Test Championship

Rahane-led India set to face stern Kiwi test at home

IND v NZ, first Test, preview

ICC World Test Championship 2019-21 finalists India and New Zealand lock horns in the first of the two-match Test series in Kanpur.

Overview 

India vs New Zealand, first Test
Green Park, Kanpur
25-29 November, 09:30 local time

India are all set to kick off their home campaign in the current iteration of the ICC World Test Championship as they host New Zealand for two Tests.

With several key players rested for the series, including captain Virat Kohli for the first game and vice-captain Rohit Sharma for the whole series, Ajinkya Rahane will take over the mantle of the skipper in their absence.

India will also be without Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammad Shami, Rishabh Pant (all rested) while KL Rahul had to pull out days before the first Test owing to a thigh strain.

The injury has opened the door for Shreyas Iyer, who will be making his debut in the longest format of the game, as confirmed by Rahane in the press conference ahead of the match.

Even without many Test regulars, India will fancy their chances at home where they have built a fortress of sorts. In the last 10 years, India have won 34 Tests at home and lost just four out of 44 matches. 

If New Zealand are to dent that record, they will have to be prepared to face India's trial by spin.

Unlike India, New Zealand have their full strength squad available to them, bar a couple of Test regulars – Trent Boult (rested) and Devon Conway (hand injury). In fact, the Kiwis decided to rest Kane Williamson and Kyle Jamieson for the T20Is so as to keep them fresh for the red-ball series.

From the composition of the squad, it looks like New Zealand are prepared to fight fire with fire as they have packed the squad with four spinners, though only one of them (Mitchell Santner) has played a Test in India before. With Rachin Ravindra yet to play a Test match in his career, they will be hoping Ajaz Patel and William Sommerville, both of whom have played Tests in Asia before, can make a difference on spin-friendly tracks.

This will be New Zealand's best chance to break their 33-year-old hoodoo against India away from home in Tests – the Black Caps haven't won a game in the longest format in India since 1988.

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Remember the last time

India and New Zealand created history the last time they met in red-ball cricket as the two teams clashed in the first-ever ICC World Test Championship final. 

Asked to bat first, India could only post 217 in the first innings, thanks to vital 40s from Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane. Kyle Jamieson was the wrecker in chief for the Kiwis as he ran through the Indian lineup to pick up a five-for.

In response, New Zealand managed to get a slender yet important lead of 32 runs. Devon Conway's fifty, Kane Williamson's 49 and crucial knocks from Kyle Jamieson and Tim Southee propelled the Black Caps to 249.

India had no answers to New Zealand's pace-bowling quartet in their second innings as they collapsed to 170 all out, with only Rohit Sharma and Rishabh Pant registering scores of 30 or more. After playing an important innings with the bat, Southee led the way with the ball a four-wicket haul.

Chasing 139 proved to be a mere formality for New Zealand as they finally got their hands on an ICC silverware and lifted the World Test Championship mace with an eight-wicket win.

What they said

Ajinkya Rahane (India captain): "Right now we are into the ICC Test championship. You have to make the most of the home advantage. In India we all know we are backing our bowlers to take 20 wickets. We are going to play on spin-friendly wickets. Batsmen will have to apply themselves. If they get set, they will have to convert it. That is the challenge as a batsman. You have to adapt to the situations and conditions. And then once you are set, try and get a big one. Yeah in future we are going to play on wickets that are spin-friendly."

Kane Williamson (New Zealand captain): "We know the strength of the Indian spin bowlers and they have been fantastic for a long period of time. For us, it’s looking to come up with different methods and ways to look to score and trying to be effective and build those partnerships which are important. Every player’s different, so their ways will be slightly different from one another but no doubt, a lot of thoughts have been going in to try and prepare as well as we can for some of the challenges, we know we are going to face."

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