Pitch report – University Oval

New Zealand

We run the rule over the venue for the first Test between New Zealand and the West Indies in Dunedin, where decisions to bowl first have prevailed – but only brought one victory.

<b>Established:</b> 1920<br><b>Capacity:</b> 6,000<br><b>Floodlights:</b> No<br><b>Ends:</b> Southern End, Northern End<br><b>Home eam:</b> Otago<br><b>Test History:</b> Five Tests (Two home wins, three draws)<br><b>Toss History:</b> Four fielded first (one win, one loss, two draws), one batted first (one draw)

<b>Overview</b><br>Forming part of Logan Park, a multi-sport complex, University Oval became New Zealand's seventh Test venue when it hosted the Black Caps' clash with Bangladesh in January 2008.

Built on reclaimed land that formally constituted an inlet of the Otago Harbour, the ground is a mixture of expansive grass banks, a historical grandstand and a modern media complex.

While the facilities themselves are of a high standard the playing surface has been called into question; a penchant for the production of sporting tracks and poor drainage has often led to criticism of the groundstaff.

While the ground is small and would hardly be considered for international status in other countries, it does at least have a proper turf wicket rather than the 'drop-ins' that frequent many of New Zealand's bigger stadia.

Its grandstand is also among the quainter you're likely to see, and hilly forests make for pleasant surrounds – and affords the seam bowlers formidable stakes in <a href='http://www.paddypower.com/bet/cricket/cricket-test-matches/New-Zealand-V-West-Indies-6160444.html' target='_blank' class='instorylink'><b>online cricket betting odds</b></a>.

<b>Last Time Out</b><br>Day one of March 2013's series opener was a complete washout, after which England's infamy four starting a series poorly resulted in a lame first-innings total of 167 all out. Seam was considerable for fast bowler Neil Wagner and turn enough for spinner Bruce Martin.

The Black Caps replied with a formidable 460 for nine on the back of debutant Hamish Rutherford's near double-century, as swing and seam vacated a pitch later described as "unresponsive" by host skipper Brendon McCullum.

The lead, indeed, was large but the deck didn't oblige an intriguing contest – as dour centurions Alastair Cook and Nick Compton forced a draw after batting out a full two days in Dunedin.

<b>Happy Hunting Ground</b><br>Former skipper <b>Ross Taylor</b> and current captain <b>Brendon McCullum</b> lead the pack here, with ground averages of 58.20 and 48.33 respectively, but neither have managed a century.

Opener <b>Hamish Rutherford</b> will remember fondly a fine 171 on debut in March – and sports <a href='http://www.paddypower.com/bet/cricket/cricket-test-matches/New-Zealand-V-West-Indies-6160444.html' target='_blank' class='instorylink'><b>4/1 odds to finish as match's leading run-scorer</b></a>.

With fast bowler Chris Martin retired and spinner Daniel Vettori injured, it's seamer <b>Neil Wagner</b> leading the charge on the back of seven wickets in this year's fixture against England.

The West Indies last visit for a Test to this venue, in 2008's stalemate, brought unfulfilled half-centuries for opener <b>Chris Gayle</b> and the veteran <b>Shivnarine Chanderpaul</b>.

<b>They Said</b><br>"The pitch looks in really good shape. If we get some warm weather between now and Tuesday, I think we'll have as good a pitch at University Oval as we've had." – Otago Cricket Association chief executive <b>Ross Dykes</b> last week.

"You could play a timeless Test on that. You could play for 10 days and not get a result." – former England batsman <b>Geoff Boycott</b> earlier this year.

<b>Weather</b><br>Mostly sunny conditions are likely to make way for partly cloudy on days three and four, with a 60 percent threat of rain on day five. The temperature, meanwhile, will hang around 24 degrees Celsius.

<b>Conclusion</b><br>Going into this series, New Zealand have been faced with a dilemma. Should they aim for a lively green wicket to aid their own seamer strength and hope to win the toss, or should they ask for a slower pitch to give their batsmen a better chance against a West Indies attack that generally banks on seam.

In 2012, it appeared that the pragmatic approach had been taken. The majority of the grass, of which there wasn't a huge amount, was brown rather than green, and it proved a good, even batting wicket.

But as Vettori said recently, looking up is likely to give a better indication than looking down, and the forecast suggests that there should be a fair amount of cloud cover and moisture around down the line. New Zealand's decision to bowl first against England earlier this year was certainly justified.

There might not be a great deal of nip off the pitch, but swing bowlers are likely to hold the key to a result and the toss could be crucial with a bit of rain and moisture about on the first day. Evidently, more grass covering this time will ward off Boycott's previous worries of another tarmac.