“It will be Raval’s first encounter with the English side. Although he is not even 10-Test old in the game, his performance so far seems enough to back him up to do well. In the nine Tests, Raval already has piled up 623 runs at a great average of 44.50. He is yet to score a ton but has six Test fifties in his kitty”.
Ever since Kane Williamson took over the team’s full-time Test charge in 2016, New Zealand have played seven Test series. Out of which, they have won four and lost three. The losses have come against two teams, India and twice to South Africa. The only good point derived here is that New Zealand have managed to extract a result every single series they have featured in so far under Williamson’s captaincy.
South Africa not only beat the BlackCaps at home but also away from home and that way, it has been the only team to do so under Williamson’s reign. The upcoming Test series against England is going to be as crucial as that one. By winning the ODI series, England have shown that they can negate the home advantage and edge the New Zealanders. With that done, the BlackCaps cannot afford to take England lightly. In the whole of 2017, England played three Test series and lost only one – Ashes – they won the other two which were against the likes of South Africa and West Indies.
In the last 10 Test series England have played, they have lost only three, drew two and won the rest. Meanwhile, in New Zealand’s previous 10 Test series, they have had only 50 percent of positive results – won five and lost as many as those. More importantly, the last time New Zealand defeated England in a Test series was back 1999. Following that, the two countries have locked horns in seven Test series, which either drew or the Kiwis lost. Keeping those stats in consideration, England seem to have an edge, psychologically too.
To keep England under the check, New Zealand will have to have their all departments covered. Right now, one of their concerns would include their opening pair’s conundrum, ahead of the first Test, which is a Day-Night Test. Both England and New Zealand have played a pink-ball Test each, while England ended as the winner against the West Indies, New Zealand lost the Test to Australia in 2015, which was also the maiden day-night Test.
Following their respective pink-ball Tests, a lot has changed. After having a trial and tested a number of openers, England finally seemed to have established Mark Stoneman as Alastair Cook’s regular opening partner in the longest format. On the other hand, New Zealand have finally begun to be harsh with veteran Martin Guptill whenever he has shown his old issues of inconsistency. Recently so much that, he has not played a Test since New Zealand’s tour of India in 2016. And yet again, he was ignored for the England series as well.
This meant nine-Test old Jeet Raval will continue to open with Tom Latham for the Kiwis. Latham’s recent 200-run and 187-run partnerships in ODI cricket with Ross Taylor in the middle have shown his worth and potential to stitch stands at the very required times. In Test cricket, Latham comes in as an opener and that would give him enough time to settle down and hold the innings with a glue. Moreover, Latham with an experience of 34 Tests under his belt averages 38.25 has played against England in the past. He was a part of the New Zealand party that toured England in 2015. There, Latham scored 146 runs in two Tests including two fifties.
Meanwhile, it will be Raval’s first encounter with the English side. Although he is not even 10-Test old in the game, his performance so far seems enough to back him up to do well. In the nine Tests, Raval already has piled up 623 runs at a great average of 44.50. He is yet to score a ton but has six Test fifties in his kitty.
His dismissals summary has been interesting as out of 14 times he has been dismissed, 10 times was against a pacer and eight out of which came off a right-hand fast bowler. Raval played only in the first warm-up match against England and even there he became right-hand pacer Stuart Broad’s victim. Raval survived only for 35 balls and scored a mere seven runs. Whereas, Guptill captained and top-scored for the hosts in the second practice match with 73 runs to his name.
Speaking of the domestic seasons – last year and 2018 – Raval in the ongoing Plunket Shield, New Zealand’s First-Class tournament, has scored only 232 runs at a poor average of 19.33 and Guptill has scored 60 runs from the one match he has played. However, the difference between their scores last season would testify why Guptill should not be blatantly ignored. In the 2016-17 season, Raval from four matches scored 291 runs, while Guptill played only two games and still had piled up 355 runs at a superb average of 167.50.
However, Raval has a half-century three times in his previous five Test innings to Guptill’s one fifty in his last 10 Test innings and that would have helped Raval to edge Guptill going into the opening Test at the Eden Park. The upcoming England series might be as good as a litmus test for Raval as he has replaced an experienced Guptill. Regardless of his recent form, Guptill certainly has a more weight-age for all the experience he would bring along.