Venue: Lord’s, London
Date: Thursday 2 June – Monday 6 June
The form of England in the red ball game has been of much debate in the country over the last few months. England is among the best in the world in short-form cricket, but their Test play has been an absolute disaster as of late. Much of this is being blamed on players focusing on the money – be that in the IPL or in The Hundred – with critics pointing out that those same players simply don’t have the patience and skill to succeed when not trying to slog every delivery that comes their way.
The results from their last 17 Tests make for stark reading. England has won just one of those 17 matches, losing 11 along the way. This culminated in an Ashes series that was just about as uncompetitive as it could have possibly been with Australia winning 4-0 on home soil. It wasn’t just the defeats, it was the manner in which England collapsed time after time that is a major worry moving forward.
New Zealand was the World Test Champions in 2021 as they swept all before them. That title defense has not started in the best fashion for the Black Caps – they tied a pair of series 1-1 with both Bangladesh and South Africa at home – but the nucleus of the 2021 group that went undefeated until a late-year loss in India remains.
A new era of English cricket has been promised. Head coach Brendon McCullum takes charge for the first time against the country of his birth and Ben Stokes captains for the first time in a permanent role after replacing Joe Root.
England has followed up on their promise to pick on form with 23-year-old seamer Matthew Potts set to be given his first international cap. This will also be his first match at Lord’s but Potts has excelled for Durham and is the leading wicket tackler so far this county cricket season. Potts will be working alongside the recalled duo of Stuart Broad and Jimmy Anderson who were both left out of England’s Test series with the Windies in March.
The core is still there, but there are changes that have made this version of the Black Caps a slightly weaker foe (on paper). New Zealand lost batsman Ross Taylor and wicketkeeper BJ Watling to retirement, a couple of players who provided leadership with both their play and their example. Henry Nicholls is a double with a calf injury – though he is expected to be fit – while Trent Boult is seemingly unlikely to play in the first Test. Boult only just finished his IPL campaign – and only just flew to England – as his Rajasthan Royals were beaten in the final of that competition.
Look for Devon Conway to continue impressing at the start of his Test career. The seven-Test Black Cap scored a double century on this ground in his Test debut and will be looking for more of the same here.
It is so hard to pick England – even at home – as they simply have no form in Test match cricket to speak of. I would take the visitors to win the first Test at 23/10 because outside of Root and Jonny Bairstow the England batting seems completely inadequate against top-level bowling. Those looking to play a prop could do worse than Matt Henry to lead the New Zealand bowling attack. With Boult likely out, Henry at 15/4 to be the Black Caps’ best first innings bowler is worth a punt.