England v New Zealand
Thursday 10 June, 11:00
TV: live on Sky Sports
England search for form
England were disappointing in the first test at Lord’s. Had rain not washed out an entire day they would have more than likely been chasing something improbable in the fourth innings.
Their inertia with the ball could probably be explained by a bland surface. But it was reasonable to expect more vim and vigour from a line-up which had enjoyed superior preparation to the tourists.
There will be changes to the XI. Ollie Robinson is, of course, suspended pending an investigation into historic tweets, and the most likely replacement would be Craig Overton. However, the Somerset man could miss out because the ECB fear a backlash as Overton was banned for telling Ashar Zaidi, a Pakistan-born Sussex batsman, to “go back to your own ******* country” in 2015.
Not picking a player who has “served his time” so to speak would set an almost impossible precedent. As unpleasant as Overton’s words were, if he is considered the best option he should play. Clearly the ECB felt Overton was rehabilitated as he wouldn’t have been picked two years later or made this squad.
What is more likely is that Robinson and Mark Wood will be replaced by Jack Leach and Olly Stone. Leach’s spin variation is welcome but England’s tail looks long with broad at No 8.
Possible XI Burns, Sibley, Crawley, Root, Pope, Lawrence, Bracey, Broad, Leach, Stone, Anderson
Boult likely to return
It was hard not to be mighty impressed by New Zealand at HQ, who lived up to their billing as World Test Championship finalists. Coming in cold after quarantine with only an intra-squad warm-up to prepare and producing such a strong display was testament to their work ethic and skill.
Unfortunately for England they are likely to be far better for the run in terms of rhythm, fitness and ability. Not least because Trent Boult is available, allowing him precious match time before that contest against India. Boult is unlikely to be New Zealand’s only change.
With spin expected at Edgbaston slow left-arm spinner Ajaz Patel is in the frame. It would seem over-kill if the Kiwis picked both bits-and-pieces all-rounders Colin de Grandhomme and Mitchell Santner again.
Kane Williamson has emerged as a sleight doubt with an elbow niggle. Will Young, runs udner his belt for Durham, could get the nod if required.
Possible XI Latham, Conway, Williamson, Taylor, Nicholls, Watling, De Grandhomme, Jamieson, Southee, Wagner, Boult
Edgbaston can be a tricky wicket for batters. More than 300 has been busted only three times in the first dig in the last seven Tests. In county this term there have been three scores of 300 or more in 13 completed innings.
But a score under 300 first up does not spell disaster. Australia beat England there in the last Test in 2019 when posting 284. A team is bang in the game with 250, 260, 270 etcetera. England will be aware of that whatever they do post-toss. Against the Aussies they had a 90-run lead on first-innings. Four of the last seven Tests (last ten years) have been won by the team batting first, suggesting a wicket which does not stay true. This is as it should be, of course.
We would be happy to go low on first-innings runs whoever bats first. Taking the extremes at under 250, 225 or even 200 provides big returns for small outlays.
Kiwis the call
Despite that loss to Australia, Edgbaston is England’s fortress. They had not lost at the venue since 2008.
The reason for this dominance is the superb records of James Anderson and Stuart Broad there. Routinely they generate seam and swing to enforce England’s natural dominance in conditions. But whatever Anderson and Broad can do, Tim Southee, Kyle Jamieson and Trent Boult will reckon they can match. It should be a home from home for them.
This led to early confusion on the odds. Betfair Sportsbook made New Zealand favourites at 6/5 but have since reversed this call and gone 6/4 with England 11/10. On the exchange the Kiwis are bigger still 2.809/5, England 2.186/5 and the draw 5.204/1.
That exchange price should mean the Kiwis remain odds-against even if they bat first. And you may get bigger still if they are bowled out for that 260-270 mark with the market likely to overreact. No rain is forecast.
Devon Conway’s magnificent double ton at Lord’s earns him joint-favourite status for top kiwi bat in the first innings at 3/1 with Sportsbook. The firm are confident enough to boost Kane Williamson to the same. The value could be lower down, though, with new ball movement likely. Once again we think Jamieson is underrated at 40s.
For England, Rory Burns will be popular at 4/1 considering his excellent performance at HQ and a century on this ground last time out. Joe Root is 9/4 favourite.