First Test preview: New Zealand v India

India

New Zealand have only won three Tests at home since the start of 2011, while India have not triumphed away from home in 12 attempts, leaving plenty of pitfalls to correct in this week's series opener in Auckland.

New Zealand have only won three Tests at home since the start of 2011, while India have not triumphed away from home in 12 attempts, leaving plenty of pitfalls to correct in this week's series opener in Auckland.

The hosts were unsurprisingly dominant in the preceding ODI status, despite the visitors' status as World Cup champions. The longer format, however, is bound to level the playing field.

The Black Caps have spoken a big game, naming an unchanged XI 24 hours prior to the start and waxing lyrical about the intent to all but bounce the opposition out. The Indian order, indeed, are vulnerable to short-pitched bowling, but should not be underestimated.

In the young Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli, the tourists sport arguably world cricket's most talented pair. Seamers Trent Boult, Neil Wagner and company, indeed, will meet their match.

Opener Shikhar Dhawan's struggles aside, batting will not be a genuine concern. It's in the bowling that lie the alarms. Captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni's pre-match press conference was lined with defence of the experienced Ishant Sharma – and for good reason.

While youngster Mohammed Shami is more than holding his own and the veteran Zaheer Khan continues to justify his recall, Ishant seems to be going from bad to worse. There was a glimmer of hope in South Africa, but this series has to be last-chance saloon in Test match cricket for the plighted right-armer.

<b>Key Men</b><br>Former captain <b>Ross Taylor</b> is in great form and will be determined to convert the big runs scored in ODI cricket to telling contributions in the five-day fold, particularly before leaving the squad to be with his heavily pregnant wife.

Any man who keeps aspiring all-rounder Ravichandran Ashwin out of the XI has a point to prove, as the preferred <b>Ravindra Jadeja</b> must vindicate with both bat and ball.

<b>Last Five Head-To-Head Results</b><br>2012: Second Test: India won by five wickets in Bangalore<br>2012: First Test: India won by an innings and 115 runs in Hyderabad<br>2010: Third Test: India won by an innings and 198 runs in Nagpur<br>2010: Second Test: Match drawn in Hyderabad<br>2010: First Test: Match drawn in Ahmedabad

<b>Teams</b><br><i>New Zealand (confirmed):</i> Peter Fulton, Hamish Rutherford, Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor, Brendon McCullum, Corey Anderson, BJ Watling, Tim Southee, Neil Wagner, Trent Boult, Ish Sodhi.

<i>India (probable):</i> Murali Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Ravindra Jadeja, Zaheer Khan, Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma.

<b>Dates:</b> 6 to 10 February<br><b>Morning session:</b> 11:00-13:00 (22:00-24:00 GMT, previous day)<br><b>Afternoon session:</b> 13:40-15:40 (03:00-05:00 GMT)<br><b>Evening session:</b> 16:00-18:00 (02:30-04:30 GMT)<br><b>On-field umpires:</b> Steve Davis and Richard Kettleborough<br><b>Third umpire:</b> Gary Baxter<br><b>Match referee:</b> Ranjan Madugalle

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