Since they were last on the field in March, England have appointed a new captain, head coach and director of cricket, and have turned to Stokes, McCullum and Rob Key in a bid to improve the Test rankings again.
Joe Root, Chris Silverwood and Ashley Giles all paid the price for England’s dismal form at Red Ball, with the side winning just one of their last 17 Tests and suffering an eminent Ashes defeat by Australia last winter.
However, it remains to be seen whether England will improve under the new leadership group or continue to be underwhelmed. New Zealand, who were crowned Test champions last summer, are hoping for the latter.
The Black Caps are a force to be reckoned with under Kane Williamson, but the team’s poor form since their World Test Championship final and a less than ideal preparation for this three-game series will give England hope.
Schedule England vs New Zealand
First Test (June 2-6, Lord’s)
Second Test (June 10-13, Trent Bridge)
Third Test (23-27 June, Headingley)
England’s struggles in Test cricket have been well documented and they go into this series which sits bottom of the World Test Championship table behind Bangladesh.
Zak Crawley and Alex Lees will resume their opening partnership, but there are question marks over both players, who average 29 and 21 respectively in Tests.
Crawley had a poor start to the county championship season, hitting 156 runs in eight innings for Kent, but he still hit a couple of fifties in his last top-flight match.
The 24-year-old was hailed as one of the world’s most exciting hitters when he hit a brilliant double century against Pakistan two summers ago, but Crawley has only gone over 50 three times in 26 innings since then.
Lees made four starts in six innings in his first Test series against the West Indies but failed to produce a significant result, although he earned his spot on the England team after impressing in the County Championship by two hundred and a half centuries.
It will be interesting to see how Ollie Pope fares in third – the Surrey star did not play in the Caribbean after being dropped during the Ashes series but has looked back at his best for his county in recent weeks – while Root, unencumbered by the captain’s weight, is in a good place to maintain his brilliant form.
England’s biggest pick will be whether to play fifth-placed Jonny Bairstow or Harry Brooks. Bairstow has scored two hundred points in his last four Tests but his focus has been on white ball cricket and IPL, while Brooks has been churning out runs for Yorkshire and has made three centuries and six fifties this season.
New captain Stokes has confirmed he will drop to six, while wicketkeeper Ben Foakes will snap at seven unless England decide to give Bairstow the gloves. Foakes wasn’t at his best against the West Indies but is averaging close to 100 this summer and deserves a home debut.
The decision to recall James Anderson and Stuart Broad, both suspended from the West Indies tour, was well received and both appear ready to play at Lord’s as they approach the ages of 40 and 36 respectively.
England resisted the temptation to call on legspinner Matt Parkinson for Jack Leach another chance to impress alongside Craig Overton or Matthew Potts.
Ben Stokes, James Anderson, Jonny Bairstow, Stuart Broad, Harry Brook, Zak Crawley, Ben Foakes, Jack Leach, Alex Lees, Craig Overton, Matthew Potts, Ollie Pope, Joe Root
The Kiwis warmed up for last summer’s World Test Championship final by inflicting England’s first home defeat since 2014.
The 1-0 series win was New Zealand’s first success on these shores in 22 years and they will be optimistic of repeating the trick this time, despite struggling a bit since being named Red Ball champions.
New Zealand endured a surprisingly weak summer at home, losing in India and failing to beat Bangladesh and South Africa at home.
Winning the Test World Championship felt like the end of a cycle, and the absences of Ross Taylor and BJ Watling – two middle order rocks – point to a team going through a transition period.
While it’s not uncommon for teams to get off to a bad start in Test series, New Zealand’s preparations have been particularly poor, with the first two days of their warm-up game against Sussex being a blur and a County Select XI securing a surprise win over the Black Caps at Chelmsford.
With some players arriving late to camp due to the IPL and others drowning with Covid-19, New Zealand will find it difficult to get off to a flying start at Lord’s Come on Thursday morning.
To make matters worse for the tourists, captain and batsman Williamson is going through one of the worst runs of his career. The 31-year-old endured a dismal run in the IPL, hitting a fifty in 13 innings with a less-than-100 strike rate while scoring a duck against the County Select XI last week.
Williamson’s record in England – he averages 33 here compared to 54 elsewhere – could also be a cause for concern, although he is backed by quality players in Tom Latham and Devon Conway, both of whom found success against England.
All-rounders Daryl Mitchell and Colin de Grandhomme will look to contribute runs and wickets in the middle order while New Zealand have an embarrassment of riches in the bowling department.
Trent Boult, Tim Southee, Kyle Jamieson, Neil Wagner and Matt Henry are all top-flight operators, although New Zealand are expected to be without Boult at Lord’s as he joins England from the IPL.
New Zealand squad
Kane Williamson, Tom Blundell, Trent Boult, Devon Conway, Colin de Grandhomme, Cam Fletcher, Matt Henry, Kyle Jamieson, Tom Latham, Daryl Mitchell, Henry Nicholls, Ajaz Patel, Tim Southee, Neil Wagner, Will Young, Michael Bracewell
Series result: England 1-1 New Zealand
Best Run Scorer: Joe Root (England)
Best Wicket-Taker: Matt Henry (New Zealand)
England vs New Zealand odds
New Zealand: 17.10
(Odds courtesy of Betfair)
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https://metro.co.uk/2022/06/01/cricket-england-new-zealand-preview-predictions-schedule-squads-odds-16740212/ England v New Zealand preview, predictions, schedule, squad and odds