The second Test of the series moves to Seddon Park in Hamilton and will be contested under the shadow of the suspension of West Indies captain Jason Holder. Having failed to ensure that his team conformed with over-rate requirements in Wellington, Holder and his team were fined. And since it was his second offence, the captain was sentenced to one-game suspension.
Holder’s absence means team’s composition will be significantly altered. His deputy, Kraigg Brathwaite, will lead the side, but the selectors will also need to decide on a combination to fulfill Holder’s role as front-line bowler and to cover for the important runs he normally provides from number eight in the order.
The selectors have a few options. Fellow Barbadian, Raymon Reifer, is, like Holder, a pace-bowling all-rounder who could readily be slotted in for Holder’s exact playing role. His left-arm seam would also add variety to the bowling.
The selectors may also decide to offer another opportunity to young Antiguan pacer Alzarri Joseph. Though his potential is well known, some of his performances to date have been below par. But he had an outstanding One-Day International (ODI) outing in September against England at The Oval, where he bowled with pace to capture 5/56.
All things considered, they are likely to simply include leg-spinner Devendra Bishoo for Holder. Omitted in favour of a fourth seamer on what was a relatively green surface in Wellington, the team seemed to miss his services. He probably would have played in Hamilton anyway, but Holder’s enforced absence makes his return even more likely.
Holder’s absence also diminishes the batting. And considering the visitors’ propensity for the batting collapse, that is an unwelcome circumstance. But there is nothing they can really do about it since the only reasonable option is to select a front-line bowler to replace Holder.
Despite their mostly dismal batting performance in Wellington, the West Indies are unlikely to make changes to the top six. Their top three got a few runs, with relative newcomer Shimron Hetmyer being especially impressive. The next three ( batsmen numbers 4-6) all got starts as well. A few of them will need to go on to really big scores if they are to have a chance to level the series in Hamilton.
Utterly crushed in the first Test, the West Indies will need to put all that behind them when they report for the second. The New Zealanders, on the other hand, will travel to Hamilton brimming with confidence.
They will again be clear favourites to win. In Wellington they had cast their opponents aside without much trouble, without really breaking sweat. Their major concern will be to repeat the dose.
If anything, the return of Tim Southee will enhance their pace-bowling threat. The 28-year-old took time off from the first Test to be present at the birth of his first child. Boasting an excellent record at the venue, he is almost certain to replace Matt Henry, though the Canterbury quick gave a good account of himself in the first Test.
Tom Blundell retains his place as first-choice wicketkeeper since BJ Watling is still suffering from a hip injury. Making his debut in Wellington, the local boy thrilled his fans with a sparkling hundred. The West Indies were terribly hurt by his 148-run partnership with Colin de Grandhomme, who made the ninth fastest century in Tests, and his partnership with Trent Boult, worth 78 when the declaration came at 520/9.
Lower-order rallies have long haunted the West Indies, as their often shallow bowling unit seem to run out of steam after their initial burst. This is something they will need to guard against in Hamilton if they are to make the game competitive.
The Seddon Park surface is normally straightforward for batting. Groundsman Karl Johnson reports that Hamilton has been having a rather dry spell. There will still be a tinge of green to greet the players on Saturday, though seam movement is unlikely to be exaggerated. The Patumahoe clay, he reports, will allow for some pace and bounce, and there will probably not be much turn on offer.