First Test preview: New Zealand v West Indies

New Zealand

New Zealand have swung between passages of greatness and periods of weakness this year, as the opportunity to find balance before the end of the year beckons this week.

New Zealand have swung between passages of greatness and periods of weakness this year, as the opportunity to find balance before the end of the year beckons this week.

The ability to hold off a superior England unit in March offered so much promise, only for several inadequacies against Bangladesh and Sri Lanka in October and November. December, though, brings redemption's call – in familiar conditions.

The sub-continent, for a slew of limited-overs cricket, indeed, was not good to the Kiwis. Test match competition, with prolonged patches of hard graft from the batsmen and tireless spells from the seamers is this fighting team's forte.

For the challenge, they've drafted in the recalled Aaron Redmond and seamer Tim Southee. Neither have been privy to five-day cricket for a lengthy period, and the rigours must promptly be negotiated.

The West Indies, well, were a shambles in India recently – copping twin innings defeats. Halfway across the planet, with plenty of jet lag to shake off, a prompt turnaround is in demand.

Without the injured Chris Gayle and spinner Shane Shillingford, however, the task will be an entirely tricky one. The latter's absence, particularly, will come as a big blow if a questionable bowling action sidelines the spinner.

Captain Darren Sammy, too, more than ever, has to prove his worth. Without wickets and runs against the Indians, his post as a so-called specialist skipper is waning. All-rounder Dwayne Bravo is waiting to pounce on the potential vacancy.

<b>Key Men</b><br>Thrust back into Test cricket after a five-year haitus, a lot of pressure is sitting on the recalled <b>Aaron Redmond</b>, in the pivotal position of first-drop. Williamson, indeed, has left a telling void.

Opener <b>Kieran Powell</b> spoke of the need to convert good starts into innings of substantial proportions during the limited-overs series against India recently – and opportunity now knocks for him to do so in the ultimate form of the game.

<b>Last Five Head-To-Head Results</b><br>2012: Second Test: West Indies won by five wickets in Kingston<br>2012: First Test: West Indies won by nine wickets in North Sound<br>2008: Second Test: Match drawn in Napier<br>2008: First Test: Match drawn in Dunedin<br>2006: Third Test: Match drawn in Napier

<b>Prediction</b><br>The pitch is bound to suit the seamers, which will keep the Windies in the contest for longer than in India, but ultimately the New Zealanders should take this in reasonably comfortable fashion.

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

<i>West Indies:</i> Kirk Edwards, Kieran Powell, Darren Bravo, Marlon Samuels, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Narsingh Deonarine, Denesh Ramdin, Darren Sammy, Veerasammy Permaul, Tino Best, Shannon Gabriel.

<b>Dates:</b> 3 to 7 December<br><b>Morning session:</b> 10:30-12:30 (21:30-23:30 previous day GMT)<br><b>Afternoon session:</b> 13:10-15:10 (00:10-02:10 GMT)<br><b>Evening session:</b> 15:30-17:30 (02:30-04:30 GMT)<br><b>On-field umpires:</b> Nigel Llong and Paul Reiffel<br><b>Third umpire:</b> Ian Gould<br><b>Match referee:</b> Roshan Mahanama