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The conclusion of the Indian Premier League has generally marked the beginning of high-voltage internationals and it isn't any different this time around as well. It has not even been a week since the tournament has ended and we have the test series between England and New Zealand beginning on 2nd June to take the spotlight.
The two sides have had contrasting recent runs in the longest format of the game and will have something different to take away from this series. England will walk out with a pretty much new-look side and New Zealand will want to find someone to settle into Ross Taylor's boots. It is going to be a series of big rewards, incredibly close match-ups, and most importantly exciting cricket.
The first match of the three-match series is to be played at the Lord's Cricket Ground, London from 2nd June 2022. Given that the two teams will be fighting for, this one is certainly not the one to be missed.
Desperate times call for desperate measures - there couldn't be a more apt line to describe the state of English Cricket in the red-ball format. They were one of the worst-performing sides last year before they pressed the panic button, which brought about massive changes in the squad as well as the personnel supporting the squad.
First and foremost, Ben Stokes will be England's new red-ball skipper and it will be interesting to see the changes he brings about as far as the on-field approach is concerned. Joe Root's England was guilty of being too defensive at times and Ben Stokes would do well to play an aggressive brand of cricket right from the outset, especially considering their recent results. England have roped in Brendon McCullum as their coach and that certainly is an interesting choice.
As many expected, England will be coming into this match with a new-look side too. There are a number of new names included in the side and performing from the word go could be a big challenge for them. Having said that, the experience of playing in these conditions would certainly come in handy. Also, James Anderson and Stuart Broad have received the call to join the side, which certainly helps them buff up in the quick-bowling department.
With Alex Lees and Zak Crawley at the top, England will be coming in with yet another opening pair. They do have a much more solid middle-order this time, though, with the likes of Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow, and Ben Stokes available. With Ben Foakes batting at number seven and having Matthew Potts and Jack Leach to follow, the tail does look a little long.
All in all, England have an interesting mix of youth and experience. Some players will be batting at relatively unfamiliar positions while some others will be very new to the scene. It would be interesting to see how England deals with the pressure of resume well after a torrid run. They do have the experience available and if they are able to use that well, getting past them could prove to be a very challenging task.
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It was just about this time last year when New Zealand started their quest for the ICC Test Championship in England. They then won a rare test series in England followed by their first ICC Trophy as they defeated India in the World Test Championship final. They will be looking to do similar again, at least in their assignment against England, but it is not going to be that easy.
With Ross Taylor now retired, New Zealand are at the beginning of another era. There are a number of differences in their side as compared to the one that won the championship last year. With Taylor and Ben Watling no longer available, it would be interesting to see how the Kiwi middle-order fares in the challenging conditions of England.
While New Zealand were brilliant till the build-up to the championship last year, they haven't really enjoyed the same fate ever since their title victory. They were defeated by India in an away tour and failed to defeat South Africa and Bangladesh both in a home series. Also, they are coming into this match on the back of an embarrassing defeat in their practice match, which was played against County Select XI.
On paper, their bowling looks fine with the likes of Tim Southee, Kyle Jamieson, Neil Wagner, and Matt Henry available. With the likes of Daryl Mitchell and Colin de Grandhomme available in the mid-order, they do have a number of options with the ball, in case things do not go as per the plan. Having said that, Trent Boult will certainly be missed in the first match, given the skills and experience he brings to the table.
The concerning part about New Zealand's lineup is certainly their batting, which failed twice in the practice match. Even though Will Young and Devon Conway have done well in the limited opportunities they have had, New Zealand's batting unit does look a little inexperienced. Besides, Kane Williamson not performing certainly takes away that wee bit of confidence from their batting unit.
All in all, New Zealand do have a decent side with most players still being from their last year's squad, but their performance recently has been disappointing. They would want their batsmen to step up in what are going to be challenging conditions. If they are able to do that, they should certainly be able to put hosts under pressure, especially with the bowling attack they have.
Playing 11 not yet available.
Both these sides have been far from their best in the last one year and will be looking for redemption from this series. Both sides are in the rebuilding stage at the moment and the performance of the younger players might prove to be the decisive factor. England are playing at home and have always been a difficult side to get past in these conditions. New Zealand too, as it proved last time around, should enjoy these conditions. While there's not a lot to choose between the two sides, it would be fair to say that the Kiwis have not been as bad as the hosts. Also, New Zealand have a slightly better-balanced side between the two, at least on paper. Considering that and the other factors stated above, a bet on New Zealand win should be the way to go here.
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