It’s been a long wait, but Test cricket is finally back with England’s home summer of cricket set to begin on June 2nd against World Test Champion finalists, New Zealand.
While the blockbuster event of the summer is the World Test Championship final between India and New Zealand, first on the agenda is this two-Test series.
This is a milestone Test for James Anderson in his long 18-year career, if he is selected, as he will equal Alastair Cook’s record for most England Test appearances. An amazing feat for any player, but for a fast bowler who is nearing his 39th birthday, this is simply remarkable. Anderson also needs just 8 wickets to reach yet another milestone of 1000 first-class wickets. A special Test match for Anderson at Lords, his 24th appearance at this beautiful ground will surely be one to remember.
England will be without a number of their regular Test playing team. Jofra Archer and Ben Stokes are ruled out due to injury, Jos Buttler, Chris Woakes and Sam Curran have been left out due to the rest and rotation policy, and to top it off, the most skilled wicket-keeper batsman, Ben Foakes is out for potentially the whole summer after tearing a hamstring. Despite this, England have a strong group of players, and of course, have home advantage.
New Zealand on the other hand will be mostly at full strength and are a team full of experience and youth. Devon Conway, who has impressed in recent times, and most recently in New Zealand’s warm-up match, is likely to make his Test debut in the first Test. Conway, coupled with the experience of middle order players, captain Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor, and top order players Henry Nichols and Tom Latham, who has been one of the most consistent opening batsmen in recent times, New Zealand are a settled and strong team. Despite not playing very much cricket throughout the year, they are incredibly impressive in their ability to work as a cohesive unit whenever they come together for a series. This tour will be no different.
Even though New Zealand’s last tour of England was six years ago, they have managed to maintain a large majority of their Test playing team. As many as seven players are part of this current touring group and with that, comes a great deal of experience of English conditions, and the added advantage of being able to assist the young members of the group, for instance Kyle Jamieson who is looking to the experienced members to help guide him on his first tour to England.
This is going to be an extremely fascinating series between the two bowling attacks. England on the one hand have home advantage and we all know, if the conditions are suitable, they will cause havoc. But New Zealand possess a potent attack themselves. Tim Southee is one of the best Test bowlers in the world, but New Zealand also have Neil Wagner at their disposal, with his left-arm fast paced swing bowling. He is the one bowler I am incredibly excited to see bowl. If Trent Boult misses out on this series, as reports have suggested, Jamieson is hopeful of taking on the opening bowling duties for his team, although he is cautious about the use of the Dukes ball and getting carried away with the swing it offers. This attack will however be a real test for England.
Weather in the UK is sometimes unpredictable, and the first Test in London looks overcast for all the 5 days, but hopefully there will be little time lost due to rain.
The Test starts at 12pm (SA time) on Wednesday 2nd June at Lord’s