New Zealand name unchanged side for India test
MARK GEENTY IN AUCKLAND
New Zealand will remain unchanged for a third successive cricket test on what looks a pace bowler-friendly pitch for the first test against India at Eden Park tomorrow.
Home skipper Brendon McCullum confirmed an unchanged 11 from their eight-wicket win in the third test against the West Indies in Hamilton in December, which saw the Black Caps clinch a 2-0 series victory. Paceman Doug Bracewell and batsman Jesse Ryder - on standby in case Ross Taylor has to dash away to be at the birth of his second child - were omitted.
McCullum said an unchanged team was reward for their test success against the West Indies.
The Auckland pitch looked much greener than it was for the thrilling draw against England in March and McCullum said it was a definite bowl first surface if he won his first toss of the India tour.
New Zealand considered playing four frontline pacemen on a pitch unlikely to offer much for the spinners, but McCullum felt legspinner Ish Sodhi deserved to be retained.
"There's always that temptation but it's a tough ask on your No 3 batter [Kane Williamson] to go in as your first spinner. Also Ish has done a pretty good job and as a wrist spinner, even if the pitch doesn't offer a great deal of spin he should be able to get something out of it," McCullum said.
Coach Mike Hesson's call in December for green, bouncy pitches to assist the home pacemen and unsettle the Indian batsmen looks to have been heeded by Eden Park turf manager Blair Christiansen.
"It's got a decent covering of grass, albeit funny looking grass at one end. It looks hard as well so we expect a bit more bounce than what there was against England and hopefully there's a bit of pace as well. I don't expect a huge amount of sideways movement but there may just be enough," McCullum said.
India captain MS Dhoni said all 17 of his squad were fit for selection but there were no selection hints.
It seems likely they will go in with a settled top-six, Dhoni at seven, spinner Ravindra Jadeja at eight then pacemen Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma and Mohammed Shami. Veteran left-armer Zaheer and batsmen Murali Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara are the only likely newcomers to the 11 from the one-day series where India lost 4-0.
The world's No 2-ranked test side played their last series in South Africa, a 1-0 defeat in December.
New Zealand: Peter Fulton, Hamish Rutherford, Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor, Brendon McCullum (captain), Corey Anderson, BJ Watling, Tim Southee, Ish Sodhi, Neil Wagner, Trent Boult.
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