West Indies and New Zealand play the first Test of a three-match series on Sunday.
The teams square off in Jamaica in what should be an intriguing series.
Venue: Sabina Park, Kingston, Jamaica
Date: Sunday, June 8
Time: 4 p.m. BST/10 a.m. local time
Live on: SkySports (New Zealand, UK), Sports Max (Caribbean), Fox Sports (Australia), PTV (Pakistan), New Prime (India), CBN and Cricket Plus (Canada), SuperSport 2 (South Africa), Willow TV (USA), OSN Network (UAE)
Weather: The news is not too great on the weather front. AccuWeather forecasts rain and storms intermittently throughout the Test. While it won't wash out the match, it will require some strategic rethinking.
Test series in faraway lands against understated teams often go unnoticed by the neutral, but the series between the West Indies and New Zealand will hold significant interest for fans of the game.
For the West indies, it's the beginning for Denesh Ramdin's captaincy, there is a return to the Test squad for Sulieman Benn and Jason Holder while Shivnarine Chanderpaul is still pottering along since making his debut two decades ago.
West Indies have recently suffered three innings defeats in the Test arena and have been found lacking in terms of consistency far too often.
The phrase "new era" is overused in cricket, but a new captain always brings a new dawn: new strategies, new thinking and, hopefully for the Windies, new inspiration. They have won just two of their last seven Tests, losing four and drawing one.
While it is not expected that the men from the Caribbean will return to the glory of their heyday, one does expect them to try a little bit harder.
New Zealand, meanwhile, have a similarly average record with three wins from their last 14 Tests, losing four and drawing seven. They are boosted by the return of Ross Taylor who missed their last Test outing due to the birth of his child.
For the tourists, the biggest challenge will be how their batsmen respond to spin and how their modest spinners handle the task. Although Caribbean wickets were known for their express pace in the old days, spin has become a far more prominent feature in recent years.
The Caribbean spinners are increasingly becoming proficient, but the Black Caps are lacking in this department. Kane Williamson, Ish Sodhi and Mark Craig will make up the spin attack, and they all average over 40 in first-class cricket. The Windies spinners, meanwhile, average 29.75 against New Zealand's batsmen since 2012.
There is one slight concern for the Windies. Chris Gayle, who has struggled with injury since being stretchered off against India, will face a late fitness test to determine his readiness. Should he play, it will be his 100th Test match, a special occasion for any player.
It’s all set up to be an intriguing contest, both for the cricket on the field as well as the subplots and greater context off it.
Shane Shillingford is a solid asset for the hosts. Since January 2012, he has taken 51 wickets in just nine games. That run includes two 10-wicket hauls, with only Saeed Ajmal and Rangana Herath managing more. With conditions likely to be conducive to spin, he will be a key player.
Brendon McCullum averages 43.55 in Tests since the start of 2012, with three hundreds and nine fifties to his name. His consistency and ability to navigate spin will play a big part in bolstering New Zealand's batting.
Denesh Ramdin (capt), Sulieman Benn, Kraigg Brathwaite, Darren Bravo, Shiv Chanderpaul, Kirk Edwards, Shannon Gabriel, Chris Gayle, Kieran Powell, Kemar Roach, Marlon Samuels, Shane Shillingford, Jerome Taylor and Jason Holder.
Peter Fulton, Hamish Rutherford, Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor, Brendon McCullum (capt), Tom Latham, Corey Anderson, BJ Watling, Luke Ronchi, Jimmy Neesham, Mark Craig, Tim Southee, Neil Wagner, Trent Boult and Ish Sodhi.
All stats via ESPNCricinfo unless otherwise stated.
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