Test Cricket is back! After a long and drawn out IPL season which ended on Sunday night, the purest form of the game returns with a monster series between England and New Zealand.
We will be bringing you a dedicated preview for all three matches in the series as well as a bunch of other international cricket as we lead up to the ICC T20 World Cup later in the year. Be sure to check out our Cricket Tips page for regular updates.
Lord's Cricket Ground, Thursday 2nd June, 8.00pm (AEST)
Predicted XI: Alex Lees, Zak Crawley, Joe Root, Harry Brook, Ben Stokes (c), Ollie Pope, Jonny Bairstow, Craig Overton, Stuart Broad, Jack Leach, James Anderson
The Ben Stokes era will begin on Thursday night as the talented all-rounder takes over teh captains responsibilities from Joe Root. Stokes was the obvious choice for skipper, as he is the only player outside of Root that seems to have a locked position in the English Test side regardless of conditions.
Outside of Root and Stokes, the English batting line-up has been a revolving door over the last few years. Alex Lees and Zak Crawley look set to open the batting for at least the first Test of this series, while Harry Brook and Ollie Pope will likely take the other two spots in the top six.
Jonny Bairstow and Ben Foakes will battle it out for the gloves at the start of the series, but new coach Brendan McCullum has hinted at a possible return to the Test side for star limited overs player Jos Buttler.
Regardless of their team make up, the English side will be absolutely desperate to begin a new era of Test cricket under McCullum and Stokes with a series win.
Predicted XI: Tom Latham, Will Young, Kane Williamson, Devon Conway, Henry Nicholls, Colin de Grandhomme, Kyle Jamieson, Trent Boult, Ajaz Patel, Neil Wagner
The Kiwis have an embarrassment of riches at the moment, which makes predicting their starting XI incredibly hard. They opted for two all-roudners in Mitchell and de Grandhomme in their last series again South Africa but with the plethora of pace/swing bowlers they have at their disposal at the moment, I think it's more likely they drop Mitchell and opt for another front-line batsman for the first Test.
The New Zealand bowling attack is arguably the best in the world at the moment. They are a tiny bit thin on the spinning front, with Ajaz Patel set to take sole responsibility this series, but their pace attack is outstanding. Depending on whether they play three or four frontline seamers, they will need to make a decision between Boult, Jamieson, Southee, Wagner and Henry, all of whom are proven Test level talents.
The Kiwi top six will get a massive boost with skipper Kane Williamson back in the team after missing the South Africa series through injury. Alongside Conway, Latham and Nicholls, the New Zealand batting line-up boasts multiple match winners.
I absolutely love the value of the Kiwis here. This English batting line-up is so unproven that I am struggling to see how they deal with the New Zealand pace attack. The English conditions are the most similar to what the Kiwis will get back home as well with it likely to be overcast and the Duke ball swinging around corners.
Southee, Boult and co. are the best exponents of swing in the world at the moment and I think they will wreak havoc on this English line-up. Crawley, Lees and Pope average 28, 21 and 28 in Test cricket respectively while Harry Brook has never played a Test. Daunting prospect for that batting line-up.
Trent Boult has loved playing in England when he has gotten the opportunity over the course of his career. In 75 Test matches, his average is 27.42 but that number drops to just 21.59 in England, the lowest of any country outside of Sri Lanka. He has taken 32 wickets in England in just six matches. Back him to top the wicket taker tally for NZ in the first innings.
The one deviation I'll take to my love of New Zealand in this first Test is if Joe Root can put the English team on his back as he has done so many times. I like a Root 100 in the first innings as an alternate play to the Kiwis to win, because there's a slight chance that both events still occur. Root has been dismal by his standards when he has visited Australia and New Zealand, averaging just 35 and 39 in those countries respectively. When he is at home though, he's one of the best batsmen in the world, averaging 52.18 on English soil. Averaged 94.0 in his last home series.
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