England vs New Zealand 1st Test Preview: Broad or Anderson? Robinson or Overton? De Grandhomme or Mitchell?
With the two-match test series not part of the World Test Championship, both the teams can afford to experiment.
While England have their eyes set on the Ashes to get their combinations right, New Zealand are aiming at a more recent, and some may say bigger, goal - the maiden World Test Championship trophy.
New Zealand are closer to a full-strength side with only Trent Boult absent. England, on the other hand, are missing a host of their top players, mostly the IPL stars. Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer are out due to injury.
The weather is set to be fair for the start of the English season.
Robinson and Overton compete for one spot
Talking about the bowlers first, Robinson and Overton are effectively in contention for the same spot - the one which opened up due to the absence of seam bowling all-rounders Ben Stokes, who fractured his index finger during the IPL, Sam Curran and Chris Woakes.
After Ben Foakes' injury, England will have either Bracey or Lawrence as their last recognized batter at No. 7 after which a really long tail begins, something that did not serve the team well in the four-match test series against India. In the absence of all of their top-billed all-rounders, England have no option but to add some batting heft to their lower order.
Both Robinson and Overton average over 20 with the bat in first class cricket and can play a crucial role at No. 8. But, England have a problem here. If they pick three out of Stuart Broad, James Anderson, Ollie Robinson and Craig Overton, along with spinner Jack Leach, they will have a very one-dimensional bowling attack.
Thus, the best option for the team is to pick one between Robinson and Overton.
Broad or Anderson? Pick a card
This also means that one out of Anderson and Broad will have to sit out. Brace for some spirited remarks if Broad has to spend time on the bench!
There is a lot of buzz in the county circles about Overton having added an extra yard of pace but the team management probably reckons that they have already seen Overton at the test level and want to give Robinson an opportunity instead, looking at him to play more of a holding role, if conditions are not particularly conducive.
With Jofra Archer out injured, England have the option of playing one of Mark Wood or Olly Stone as the team needs one tearaway to balance their bowling line-up. Wood is winning this battle for now.
Bracey set for debut
While Bracey has played 45 first class matches and was also part of England's training squad when international cricket hit the resume button post the COVID-19 break, Robinson and Overton have played 63 and 101 first class matches respectively. All the three players have done a fine job in the ongoing County Championship.
Bracey might have missed out on an England cap had Ben Foakes not injured himself a week before he was set to take the keeping gloves in the absence of Buttler and Bairstow. His injury has left the door open for Bracey.
Kiwis have to choose between de Grandhomme and Mitchell
Devon Conway has staked his claim to open alongside Tom Latham with heaps of runs, but New Zealand will choose between Tom Blundell and Will Young. Will Young, who has struck two hundreds in county cricket for Durham, may get the nod on form.
In the absence of Trent Boult, Tim Southee, Neil Wagner and Kyle Jamieson are set to play. The question for the Kiwi management is to pick one pace bowling all-rounder between Colin de Grandhomme, who is returning from an ankle surgery, and Daryl Mitchell. Mitchell's batting has come a long way and unless cloudy conditions are on offer at Lord's, he is expected to play.
Let's have a look at the probable playing XIs:
England - Dominic Sibley, Rory Burns, Zak Crawley, Joe Root (c), Ollie Pope, James Bracey (wk), Daniel Lawrence, Ollie Robinson, Stuart Broad, Jack Leach, Mark Wood
New Zealand - Tom Blundell/Will Young, Tom Latham, Kane Williamson (c), Ross Taylor, Henry Nicholls, BJ Watling (wk), Darryl Mitchell/Colin De Grandhomme, Mitchell Santner, Kyle Jamieson, Tim Southee, Neil Wagner
© Cricket World 2021