5 talking points ahead of England’s first Test in New Zealand
The first Test of the Chris Silverwood era gets under way on Wednesday night.
England are back in Test action on Thursday for the first time since the drawn Ashes series as they take on New Zealand in Mount Maunganui.
Here the PA news agency looks at some areas of interest.
New era for England
Chris Silverwood’s promotion to head coach from overseeing the fast bowlers should ensure some continuation from the Trevor Bayliss regime. However, with the World Cup now in the bag, there has been recognition that the Test side needs some TLC after four years of being marginalised in the pursuit of 50-over glory. Silverwood and England captain Joe Root seem to be on the same page in how they want to take the side forward and it starts on this tour.
Patience, patience, patience
On their last trip to New Zealand a little more than 18 months ago, England were rolled over for a meagre 58 in Auckland, their sixth lowest Test total of all-time – one of a number of batting collapses in recent years. Root has clearly had enough and wants to see more grit from the top order. In Dom Sibley, England have selected an opener who faced over 1,000 more balls than anyone else in Division One of the County Championship this year.
Combating flat pitches and the Kookaburra ball
England have often been bereft when confronted with an unresponsive surface as well as an ageing Kookaburra – which typically moves around less than the Dukes ball they use at home. Bad news then as the Bay Oval is expected to be batsman friendly on its maiden Test. The pace and hostility of Jofra Archer, set for his first Test overseas, could change their fortunes but the rest of the attack need to find a way to contain if they are unable to take wickets on docile pitches.
No more square pegs in round holes
Jason Roy was trialled as an opener over the summer despite never doing the role in first-class cricket while, last year, Ollie Pope was asked to bat four having not been above six for Surrey at the time. These are just two examples of England putting square pegs in round holes. However, their anticipated XI to take the field later this week looks a lot more balanced. Joe Denly should drop down to three to accommodate Sibley alongside Rory Burns, while Sam Curran is highly likely to play instead of Chris Woakes in the third seamer’s role, giving England a left-arm option.
Archer v Ferguson
Archer’s international career is barely six months old but he is already a precious commodity with the skills – not least his ability to crank up the pace beyond 90mph at regular intervals – to frighten any batting line-up. New Zealand, though, are pondering whether to fight fire with fire by giving Lockie Ferguson his Test debut. Ferguson, like Archer, shone in the World Cup bowling similar speeds and took one more wicket than his England counterpart across the tournament. New Zealand will be hoping he can match Archer’s start to Test cricket.