After some doubt, it now looks like the Third Test between the Black Caps and India will proceed as planned, at Indore between 08 and 12 October. For the Black Caps, for whom the series is lost, this match is about putting into practice what has been learned from the first two Tests towards the goal of winning some respectability.
The Black Caps have not been poor on this tour. Far from it. Barring a disastrous Day 3 in the 1st Test and Day 2 in the second, they have been India’s equal.
In Kanpur, the Black Caps looked well ahead at the end of Day 2. In reply to India’s 318 they were 152/1. Day 3 was a disaster, losing 9 wickets for 110 and then letting India get to 159/1 by stumps.
Likewise in Kolkata. The Black Caps had India at 239/7 at the end of Day 1, but a horror Day 2 saw India put on 77 for their last 3 wickets and then get the Black Caps 128/7 at stumps. Although the Black Caps lost by almost 200 runs they did take 20 wickets, which is a good sign for a visiting team in India.
If the Black Caps can get through this third Test without such a horror day they could well win.
There’s a solution to the Martin Guptill problem. It’s called Nathan Astle. The dashing ODI opener was not even considered for a Test opening spot, despite being good enough to score 16 centuries in the shorter format. Astle began his serious Test batting career at 5 and stayed there.
Guptill has been unlucky because positions 3, 4 and 5 have been sewn up for years and so the only realistic option was to open. Now with Brendon McCullum no longer with the side, there is a gap at 5 that Guptill could potentially fill. Not only will an older red ball will behave a lot more like the white ball that he is used to batting against, but he is simply far too talented a batsman to leave out of the side just because he was not a great success as opener.
With a Test average of 25, Henry Nicholls probably hasn’t done enough to cement the No. 5 position, and with several impressive young bats coming through he might not get much of a chance. Nicholls’s technique might be more suited to the opening position, and his 76 against Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander with essentially a new ball in South Africa recently suggests that he has enough potential there to be worth a look.
With Trent Boult fully entrenched as The Black Caps’s premier paceman and with Neil Wagner, who at a bowling average of 29.63 has much better returns, it appears that Tim Southee is now competing with Matt Henry for that third seamer spot.
Matt Henry may rightly be ahead of Tim Southee now. One match with six wickets at 17.50 could be written off as lucky, but anyone watching the Second Test might well have remarked that Henry’s pitch map was much better than Southee’s, forcing the batsman to play much more and without the regular boundary balls.
Tom Latham seems to have difficulty concentrating past a certain point. He is building a Flemingesque record with an average of 38.38, 9 fifties and 5 centuries. Whether or not he can overcome this will determine if he can become a great opener along the lines of Richardson or Turner.
BetFair does not consider the Black Caps to have much of a chance: they are paying $6.20 to win at the exchange, compared to India’s $1.60 (the Draw is $4.60).