After the first Test at Lords was a draw, thanks in large part to the poor weather, resulting in the whole of Day 3 being washed out, we now move to Edgbaston for the second and final Test of the series with it all to play for.
New Zealand, to their credit, tried to make a game of the first Test with their generous declaration, but England set their heals in and opted for the safe draw. With no World Test Championship (WTC) points up for grabs, one could have argued they should have tried at the very least to go for the carrot Williamson dangled. But with an inexperienced batting lineup with Stokes and Buttler missing, and with four of England’s batsmen on pairs in the second innings, England took the cautious approach.
Regarding team selections, New Zealand coach, Gary Stead has confirmed changes to their playing XI, Mitch Santner has been ruled out due to a finger injury, Kane Williamson has a recurrence of an elbow injury and is being monitored, with a late decision to be made on his availability. With the WTC final just 8 days away, New Zealand are tentative about risking him for that match. Meanwhile Trent Boult having arrived early in the UK for the final against India, is likely to be included in the 2nd Test. Fast bowlers typically need time in the middle to find their groove, and with Boult having played no professional cricket since the IPL in March, playing in the 2nd Test would honestly be common sense. Player workloads also need to be managed, therefore Tim Southee may be the player rested for Boult’s inclusion.
If Williamson is cleared to play, he will be looking to make more of an impact in the 2nd Test as he and Ross Taylor, both seasoned campaigners had relative failures in the first Test, scoring only 14 runs (Williamson) and 47 runs (Taylor), respectively. With only one professional game left before the final, they will both look to take advantage of the situation and have some quality time in the middle at Edgbaston.
While England should be planning for the next Test and their summer of Test cricket, they are having to deal with the aftermath of Ollie Robinson’s suspension from all international cricket, following a series of racist and sexist tweets in his youth. To make matters worse for England, another player, unnamed as of now but we do know he is in the current team, has since been known to have posted tweets of a discriminatory nature in their past, and may be withdrawn from the squad. This would then impact what changes they make to their team for the 2nd Test.
To add the sour cherry on top of this cake, England have also been fined 40% of their match fees from the first Test for a slow over rate. With this in mind, Jack Leach, England’s premier spinner, is likely to be recalled to the side, which will help to speed up their bowling rates.
With only Sam Billings as another keeping option but having no prior Test experience, England will likely stick with James Bracey, even though he had a less than impressive debut, stumbling with the gloves and failing to make a contribution with the bat in the only innings he batted. This will be a big test for him to prove his worth on the big stage before the first-choice players of Buttler & Foakes return.
England’s rest & rotation policy means that James Anderson and Stuart Broad are not likely to both play in the final Test. At 38 years old, and with five Tests against India coming up, never mind the five Ashes Tests this winter, Anderson will need to be managed.
An important Test, not in the context of any World Test Championship points, but for personal pride with both teams not wanting to go into their next series on the back of a series defeat, they will be looking to end the series on a high.
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