New Zealand won the first edition of the World Test Championship, in 2021, but in the following edition, they could only manage sixth place. With their 2023-25 campaign kicking off next week, what are their chances this time around?
Going into their first assignment of the new rotation, the squad New Zealand have named for their two-Test series in Bangladesh looks remarkably similar to the one which lifted the mace two and a half years ago. While Tim Southee now leads the side, Devon Conway, Tom Latham, Henry Nicholls, Kane Williamson, Kyle Jamieson and Neil Wagner all played in the final at Southampton against India. It speaks to a wider theme of quality over quantity in New Zealand’s international setup, with Daryl Mitchell a starring addition to the side since he broke into the regular Test team in 2022.
On the face of it, New Zealand’s share of matches for the 2023-25 WTC looks favourable. Starting with the series against Bangladesh, who haven’t won a home Test match against a WTC side since the West Indies in 2018, that looks pretty winnable for New Zealand. On what are likely to be flat tracks, they have the batters to grind Bangladesh down, even if their spin attack is less reliable.
The next away series New Zealand have in the schedule is Sri Lanka in September next year. Not accounting for injuries or retirements that could happen in the intervening 10 months, that also seems a winnable prospect. A much tougher test will be a three-match series in India. With India the most dominant home side in the world, taking a game off them would be a good result for any visiting side.
But from those away series, if New Zealand take four wins from seven – assuming they beat Bangladesh and Sri Lanka twice but are trounced by India – that would leave New Zealand with a win percentage of 57 from their away fixtures alone.
Looking at their home series, South Africa have already said they will not send most of their SA20 stars for the two-Test series in New Zealand in February. That brings the odds for that series drastically into New Zealand’s favour for a first home series win against the Proteas. Also in consideration should be that, since the beginning of 2018, only India (8.0) have a better win/loss ratio at home than New Zealand (5.333). In that timeframe, New Zealand have won 16 of their 22 Tests at home and only lost three. South Africa have only visited New Zealand once in that time, for a drawn two-match series last year.
Following that series, Australia will cross the Tasman for another two-match series. That should be a much stiffer assignment – Australia haven’t lost a Test in New Zealand since 1993. But, New Zealand’s only other home series of the rotation will be against England in next December. Before England’s emphatic victory at Mount Maunganui earlier this year, New Zealand hadn’t lost to them on home soil since 2008. While England’s Stokes-McCullum formula was enough to turn that record around, by the time that series comes they will have had a five-match tour of India and a home summer to contend with.
In the last edition of the World Test Championship, the first completely under the points percentage system, 58.8 percent was enough for India to qualify in second for the final. If New Zealand win four out of their seven away Tests, four home wins would take them to 57. Given their previous win record at home and the weakened South Africa squad, taking a Test off England next winter doesn’t seem unlikely. While Australia seems less likely, possible draws, if New Zealand do manage to take a Test off India in their away series, or eek out a couple of draws at home, that would bring them right back into it.
While New Zealand’s run into the final looks by no means clear, it seems less complicated than last time around. As the earliest victims of Bazball, they were unexpectedly trounced in England and being undone by Ebadot Hossain at home cost them their chances early on.
Of course, there are caveats that could once again derail their campaign. They have an ageing fast-bowling lineup, with 37-year-old Neil Wagner called up to replace the injured Matt Henry for the series in Bangladesh. It’s hard to predict what their pace attack could look like in 2025. From everything that can be predicted, however, if they can avoid upsets, they have a good chance of making the final at Lord’s in 18 months’ time.
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