MOUNT MAUNGANUI: New Zealand and England will take their cricketing rivalry into the Test arena from Thursday after finding themselves evenly matched in recent limited-overs thrillers.
England have bragging rights after winning a rollercoaster World Cup final in July, then edging the Black Caps 3-2 in a desperately close Twenty20 International series completed earlier this month.
Both the one-day decider and T20 series needed tie-breakers to find a winner and there will be no shortage of mutual respect when the rivals face off again in the first Test at the Bay Oval in Mount Maunganui.
On paper, there again appears to be little to separate the teams, with New Zealand second in the Test rankings and England third.
But England skipper Joe Root is painfully aware that his team underperformed when it lost a two-Test series in New Zealand last year after underestimating the Black Caps’ bowlers on their home turf.
Pacemen Trent Boult and Tim Southee bundled the tourists out for 58 in the first innings of the opening Test as England tried to play what Root described as ‘fast forward’ cricket.
England’s skipper said his team would be taking a more measured approach this time, with batsmen placing an emphasis on protecting their wickets.
“We have to be prepared to play some attritional cricket at times,” he said.
“We have to try to bat longer... it would be nice to get used to batting for 120 overs more regularly, especially in the first innings.”
The series will not count towards the World Test Championship, giving new England coach Chris Silverwood room to experiment in his first Test series in charge.
He is expected to hand opening batsman Dom Sibley his debut, partnering Rory Burns, with Root moving down to fourth in the order.
New Zealand will take the opportunity to blood speedster Lockie Ferguson, who has already excelled in limited overs internationals and was described as ‘an extreme talent’ by short-ball specialist Neil Wagner.
“I know he’s raring to go. If he gets the opportunity he’ll make the most of it,” Wagner said.
New Zealand will also be bolstered by the return of captain Kane Williamson, who sat out the Twenty20 International series with a nagging hip injury. It will be the first Test match ever staged in Mount Maunganui which has been hosting limited-overs internationals since 2014.
The beachside venue is Wagner’s home ground and he said the wicket could take time to get used to.
“It is been a pretty good wicket that’s tended to be on the flatter side but there’s always pace and bounce that you can work with,” he said. “It’s also got its own unique challenges with wind that swirls around a bit.”
NEW ZEALAND: Jeet Raval, Tom Latham, Kane Williamson (captain), Ross Taylor, Henry Nicholls, Colin de Grandhomme, BJ Watling, Mitchell Santner, Tim Southee, Neil Wagner, Todd Astle, Tom Blundell, Trent Boult, Lockie Ferguson, Matt Henry.
ENGLAND: Rory Burns, Zak Crawley, Joe Root (captain), Joe Denly, Ollie Pope, Ben Stokes, Dominic Sibley, Jos Buttler, Sam Curran, Chris Woakes Stuart Broad, Jofra Archer, Jonny Bairstow, Jack Leach, Saqib Mahmood, Matthew Parkinson,
Umpires: Kumar Dharmasena (Sri Lanka) and Bruce Oxenford (Australia).
TV umpire: Paul Wilson (Australia).
Match referee: Javagal Srinath (India).
Published in Dawn, November 20th, 2019