Venue: Basin Reserve, Wellington
Date: Friday, February 24 – Tuesday, February 28
England will be looking to take home a Test series win from New Zealand as the two rivals face off in the second and final Test beginning on Friday in Wellington. The first Test was all England, with the tourists smashing the hosts by 267 runs inside four days of play.
Harry Book top-scored for England with 89 (from just 81 balls) as the tourists made the surprising decision to declare at 325-9 before the end of day one. It turned out to be the correct decision, with England using the lights to take three quick wickets in the pink ball Test to leave New Zealand struggling at 37-3.
It was a position that the Black Caps could never recover from. They struggled to a respectable 306 – Tom Blundell’s 138 gave them a chance – before England again smashed the ball around to reach 374 in 73.5 overs. This time the collapse came early, with New Zealand struggling to 63-5 while chasing 394 to win. James Anderson took four wickets during the first session of the fourth day, following Stuart Broads’ lead after he skittled four of the top six in the New Zealand lineup in a blistering spell to end day three.
In the end, it was a comprehensive win.
New Zealand will have to find a way to deal with England’s aggressive style of play if they are to defend Wellington and come away with a series draw. ‘Bazball’ is a concept that began when England played New Zealand to a 3-0 sweep at home last June.
The hosts must keep England’s run rate far lower than the five plus an over they were rolling at during the first Test. They will also have to find a way to survive Broad when he gets hot, with the England pacer yet again demonstrating his ability to take wicket after wicket – regardless of the standard of batsman he is facing – when he gets on one of his streaks.
England is in great form and saw several players set new Test records in the first Test in Mount Maunganui. Ben Stokes is now the cricketer with the most sixes in Test cricket – ironically passing Brendon McCullum of New Zealand – while Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad are the bowlers with the most wickets as a pair in Tests. This speaks to the longevity of Anderson and Broad, along with their ability to work as a pair, complimenting each other’s bowling style to take wickets.
England hadn’t won a Test in New Zealand in seven tries – dating back to 2008 – with five of those Tests finishing as draws. That makes backing England a little riskier than you would expect, given their domination in the first Test, especially considering that this was also their first day/night Test win since 2017.
One thing to watch is the lineups. There is a possibility that England could rest their bowling attack, which would certainly shift the contest in the favor of the hosts. England has been a team that doesn’t rest players under Stokes, but it is a different game if Olly Stone and Matthew Potts come in for the likes of Anderson, Broad, or Ollie Robinson. The lean is still England, but I would be fine backing a draw if the tourists are without their frontline attack.