Jofra Archer or Ben Stokes. Who would you pick as your captain? Would you go for Kane Williamson or New Zealand’s leading run-scorer since 2018, Tom Latham in your side. Will Trent Boult once again have England all at sea?
After a closely fought T20 International series that went England’s way by the barest of margins, the caravan will now move to the longest format of the game with the first Test to be played at Bay Oval, in Tauranga.
The head-to-head record is stacked firmly in favour of the visitors. England have won 48 of the 103 Tests played between these two countries, with New Zealand managing only 10 wins. 45 encounters have ended in a draw. The last five Tests have seen England and New Zealand winning two games apiece while one Test ended in a draw.
Ground details and team combination
This will be the first Test to be played at Bay Oval. The surface here in One-Day Internationals has favoured the pace bowlers much more than spinners. In 9 ODIs played here, fast bowlers have returned wickets every 35.8 deliveries as compared to spinners’ 56.3.
The surface has aided pace and bounce at this venue but without a lot of lateral movement, shot making has also been easy. That is reflected in the fairly high first innings average score of 277 in the nine ODIs played here. A similar surface could be expected for the first Test as well.
As we have mentioned, pacers have been highly effective at this venue, so packing your side with at least four fast bowlers should be a no-brainer. In addition, five frontline batsmen and two all-rounders could be an ideal make of your side.
On the bowling front, left-arm pacers have been most effective at this venue over the nine ODIs, having picked a wicket every 29.9 deliveries. Someone like Trent Boult will be a perfect fit in your side while the searing pace of Lockie Ferguson, Jofra Archer and Neil Wagner could also help you score important points.
A batting average of 48.23, a bowling average of 32.8, Ben Stokes, who is having a splendid 2019 is our captain choice for this Test. Stokes is the highest run-scorer for England in Tests in 2019 with 627 runs in 16 innings and that says a lot considering he bats in the lower middle-order. He has been the cynosure of English cricket this year and will be itching to perform well in the country of his birth.
Our first X-factor is Jofra Archer. There have been very few players who have been the talk of the town even before their debut. But Archer despite all the spotlight on him, has backed it up with numbers. He was at his best in the Ashes series where he returned 22 wickets, striking every 42.5 balls. He was excellent in the tour games as well making the batsmen hop and duck. On a surface that has favoured the fast bowlers in the past, Archer could be a handful.
The fulcrum of New Zealand’s batting unit, Kane Williamson’s return from injury is bound to give Blackcaps some sort of relief. He is the second-highest run-scorer for the hosts since the start of 2018 with 949 runs in 17 innings at an average of 63.27. In addition, with Tauranga being his home ground, he has played a lot of cricket at this venue. Coming back after an injury break, Williamson will hope to get his side off to a good start.
Our third X-factor is Trent Boult. No matter what the surface, Boult is a lethal commodity. But on the pacy Bay Oval pitch, the left-armer can really prove to be a handful. Left-arm pacers have historically done well here and Boult could prove to be the X-factor for New Zealand and your side. Boult is the highest wicket-taker for his side since the start of 2018 with 54 wickets in 21 innings striking every 46.1 balls. He will once again be expected to lead the attack with the same gusto.
The weather is expected to be mostly sunny across the five days of the Test with the temperature to hover around the 20-degree range on average. Rain should not be a problem in Tauranga during the Test.
Rory Burns, Tom Latham, Kane Williamson, Henry Nicholls, Joe Denly, Ben Stokes (c), BJ Watling, Mitchell Santner, Stuart Broad, Trent Boult, Jofra Archer.