England return to Test cricket for the first time since their Ashes humbling in Australia as they look to get their long format cricket back on track against New Zealand at Eden Park.
Despite continuing their impressive form in white-ball cricket with back-to-back ODI series wins over the Baggy Greens and Black Caps in the last few months, attention returns to Test cricket where their recent form has been concerning.
It will be New Zealand’s first-ever day-night Test match in the country’s history which might benefit Joe Root’s men with the conditions replicating those at home. England showed a rare glimpse of success in their second and only day-night Test during the Ashes in Adelaide last year.
We preview the first Test match with fourth ranked New Zealand hosting fifth ranked England in Auckland on Thursday.
England’s disastrous 4-0 Ashes loss over Christmas and the New Year seemed to throw up a lot more questions than answers and head coach Trevor Bayliss will be hoping the return of all-rounder Ben Stokes will hand England a rare away series win.
Who will solve England’s long-term spinner issue? Do Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad still have what it takes to strike fear into Test batsmen? Is Mark Stoneman good enough to open the batting with Alastair Cook? Will Root learn from his Ashes humbling as captain? These are just a few questions that Bayliss and England supporters will hope to answer in New Zealand.
It’s not all doom and gloom for Root and his men though. The return of Stokes and fit again quick bowler Mark Wood along with the exciting form of batsman Dawid Malan are all positives for England going into a very winnable series.
The Black Caps will hope their star batsman Ross Taylor fights off his thigh injury in time for Thursday’s Test opener with him crucial to the home sides hopes of victory – as he showed with his devastating 181 off 147 balls in New Zealand’s ODI win over England in Dunedin at the start of the month.
Taylor and captain Kane Williamson’s destructive batting coupled with their dependable bowling attack of Trent Boult, Neil Wagner and Tim Southee will leave the Kiwis quietly confident of handing England their second Test series defeat in Australasia in recent months. They’ve won 13 of their 24 Test matches when the trio play together, taking 316 wickets in the process.
Undoubtedly England head into the two-match series as the less in-form team. Root’s charges have won just three of their last 12 Tests overseas. Their last away series win was against South Africa in 2016 – losing to India and Australia and drawing in Bangladesh along the way.
Despite form being on their side, history isn’t. New Zealand have only one Test series win over England on home soil and four overall. The Black Caps will take comfort from the fact they’ve won an impressive three of their last three Test series at home against other nations (West indies, Bangladesh and Pakistan).
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