England vs New Zealand, 3rd Test Preview: Series already won, England look to maintain momentum under Stokes-McCullum partnership
Both England and New Zealand won't harbour serious hopes of sneaking into the final of the ongoing World Test Championship cycle.
Stokes under illness cloud
It would be a shame if Ben Stokes, who played one of the most iconic knocks in Test history in Ashes 2019 at Headingley, where the third Test match between England and New Zealand is set to be played, misses out due to illness.
As things stand, Stokes tested negative for COVID-19 despite illness and batting coach Marcus Trescothick is in home quarantine, after returning a positive test. The England captain is expected to take the field at Headingley.
At the same time, his counterpart Kane Williamson who missed out on the second test match after testing positive on the eve of the match has also recovered and will take over the captaincy mantle from Tom Latham.
New Zealand have not been very fortunate when it comes to the fitness of their players with both injuries and COVID-19 playing their part. One of the drawbacks of not maintaining a bio-secure bubble, though necessary for the mental wellbeing of players, is that there will be a couple of cases in every series more often than not.
New Zealand, at various points in the series, have already missed out on the services of Henry Nicholls, Blair Tickner, Kane Williamson, Michael Bracewell and Devon Conway.
Enforcer Wagner set to play
The Kiwis have also suffered a massive setback in the form of a back injury to Kyle Jamieson who has been ruled out of the series. Neil Wagner, who has been eagerly waiting for his chances on the sidelines, is set to play in the third test.
There will also be a thought of including Ajaz Patel given that Headingley can go really flat, especially on the last two days, but one does not think that New Zealand's current combination allows for that unless they go in a batter short by dropping Michael Bracewell.
With Kane Williamson back to full fitness and Daryl Mitchell being New Zealand's highest run scorer in the series, Henry Nicholls looks likely to lose his spot.
Jamie Overton to get the nod?
Jamie Overton has been added to the England squad for the third test and the team is reportedly looking to give him an England cap straightaway. They might rest either Stuart Broad or James Anderson given that the rescheduled test against India starts just three days after the end of this test match.
The team can also think of dropping Jack Leach to include an extra pacer. Craig Overton's twin brother Jamie is known for his express pace and has picked up 21 County Championship wickets at 21 this season.
Both England and New Zealand will not harbour serious hopes of sneaking into the final of the ongoing World Test Championship cycle. While New Zealand are placed at the 7th spot with a win percentage of just 29.17% with two wins from 8 matches, England have won only three out of their 15 games and have a win percentage of 23.81%.
While New Zealand will be playing for pride, England would not want to lose on the momentum they have gained after an extended lean patch in test cricket. They have got on to a sort of a roll under the new partnership between captain Ben Stokes and coach Brendon McCullum and will do everything in their power to keep the momentum going.
Predicted Playing XIs
England - Alex Lees, Zak Crawley, Ollie Pope, Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow, Ben Stokes (c), Ben Foakes (wk), Matty Potts, Jack Leach, Jamie Overton, Stuart Broad/James Anderson
New Zealand - Tom Latham, Will Young, Kane Williamson (c), Devon Conway, Daryl Mitchell, Tom Blundell (wk), Michael Bracewell, Tim Southee, Matt Henry, Neil Wagner, Trent Boult
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