Happy Test cricket series starting! New Zealand and England have served up some of the sporting highlights of the year: first that unforgettable World Cup Final and then a tremendous T20 series that also went down to a deciding super over. That was a wee cracker, and with these two well-matched sides, there’s every reason to hope that we can add another to the list of enjoyable contests.
In the Test format, recent series for England in New Zealand have been important staging posts. In 2008, Peter Moores took the big decision to call time on the England career of Matthew Hoggard and serve notice on the Test future of Steve Harmison. In the first Test at Hamilton, England’s 2005 stalwarts took two wickets between them for 272 runs – Hoggy bowled just 12 overs in the second innings and Steve four. That was the last time Hoggard played for England; Harmy carried on for a couple more years but played just twice in 2008 and four times in 2009 before retiring. Sidelining those two cleared the path for the new era of James Anderson and Stuart Broad. (But New Zealand won the series 2-0).
The three-match 2013 series featured three draws, one of them an all-time great as Monty Panesar and Matt Prior clung on gamely with nine wickets down. That 2013 series saw Joe Root play his second Test, and Jonny Bairstow was also still just getting going. It was the second series of the Alastair Cook captaincy era proper (excluding the two matches he skippered v Bangladesh in 2010).
And today there is also the sense of a side in transition: a new coach in Chris Silverwood and a sense that England are trying to reshape their identity as a Test outfit. This is a talented, likeable side brimming with all-rounders who can absolutely tear it up on their day. But it is also a side prone to terrible batting aberrations. And we certainly saw some of them in the 2018 series here, when England were 27/9 within 16 overs in the first session of the first Test.
So whatever happens this evening, let’s hope England get off to a better start than that! We will have the team news and the toss around 9.30pm UK, I will talk you through the first session, and then for all you night owls, it’ll be over to Jake Goodwill from midnight for the rest of the play.
In the meantime, a lovely piece of work from the lovely piece of work that is Rob Bagchi. An A-Z of England tours of New Zealand – from dope to Iranigate … orcs to Zinzan