After winning the ODI series 3-2, England are set to take on New Zealand in a two-match Test series in the final leg of their tour. New Zealand has largely retained the same squad from the ODIs whereas England has replaced several players to make way for the veterans.
Unlike the one-dayers, England is going to start out as the favorites. They have a much stronger side on paper and a better balance between the two departments. Will New Zealand be able to compete, or will England dominate the Tests as well?
Joe Root (c), Moeen Ali, James Anderson, Jonny Bairstow, Stuart Broad, Alastair Cook, Ben Foakes, Liam Livingstone, Dawid Malan, Craig Overton, Ben Stokes, Mark Stoneman, James Vince, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood, Jack Leach.
Kane Williamson (c), Todd Astle, Trent Boult, Colin de Grandhomme, Matt Henry, Tom Latham, Henry Nicholls, Jeet Raval, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor, Neil Wagner, BJ Watling, Martin Guptill.
Where the teams stand
England’s Test batting lineup cannot exist without the likes of Cook, Anderson, and Broad. All three return to the squad, along with names like Liam Livingstone, Jack Leach, Malan, and Ben Foakes. Stoneman also returns after making his debut recently. He will most likely open with Cook. Root and Malan, though rarely in the squad together, would form a solid one and two-down combination. Livingstone performed well in the practice match he played(88), and should take the one spot remaining for batsmen. Bairstow is also competing for the same spot, but if the selection criteria is based on recent performances, Livingstone will most likely play. Stokes and Ali will take the remaining spots to make it seven batsmen and four premier bowlers, with several batsmen who can bowl as well.
Having Moeen and Root to bowl spin gives England the luxury of being able to play four premier pacers. Anderson, Broad, Overton/Wood, and Woakes can all start the game, and boy what an attack these four, Stokes, and Ali would make. Anderson and Broad may be way past their prime, but they are still formidable threats with the swinging ball. Overton has been consistent for England whenever given a chance, and Woakes was devastating in the ODIs, with bat and ball. It does not get much better than this.
New Zealand have retained a majority of the players that played the ODIs. In the batting department, Munro is the only major name to be dropped. Santner and Sodhi miss out as well. However, Guptill, Latham, Taylor, de Grandhomme and Williamson are all part of the squad. Taylor will be the man to watch out for after his blistering 181* against England. Williamson was in good touch during the ODIs too. de Grandhomme’s suitability to Test cricket is still somewhat suspect, but he retains his place as the pinch-hitter who can bowl. Tom Blundell and BJ Watling will be competing for the wicketkeepers spot, but after Blundell’s 131* in the practice match, Watling can only pray for a miracle. As in the ODIs, much rests on the four big names. Their performances will mainly determine how New Zealand fare in the Tests.
Amongst the bowlers, Boult, Southee, and Henry return to the squad. Wagner has been added to the squad as the second left-arm pacer. This is a smart move considering the number of left-handers in the English batting lineup, and the swinging ball will definitely trouble them. Todd Astle has also been added as the pure spinner, and he may just beat Henry to the first eleven. Regardless of who occupies the fourth spot, the bowling attack looks ordinary compared to the English one. They will have to rely on their batting to get thorough the Test, making batting second a better choice on winning the toss. Beating England will be an uphill task for this team.
England win. Their team on paper is far superior to that of the Kiwis, and the home advantage might not save them.