New Zealand Test squad for England series analysis - Solid openers, Ferguson's X-Factor & more
New Zealand have announced their Test Squad for the two-match Test series against England just days before the opening match, scheduled to begin at Mount Maunganui.
Both the teams have played one Test series each as part of their World Test Championship 2019-2021 cycle. However, both of them are coming on the back of limited-overs cricket. England last played a Test in the Ashes where they drew level against Australia at 2-2. New Zealand also drew their last Test series against Sri Lanka 1-1 while touring.
New Zealand are currently placed at the second spot in the World Test Championship points table with one win and one loss from two games. They have 60 points, four more than England, who are placed at the fifth spot with two wins, two losses and one drawn game out of their five.
Technically sound openers
The duo of Jeet Raval and Tom Latham has been a very successful pair for New Zealand over the last couple of years and will continue to open the batting for them. In fact, Latham has been in great touch in Test cricket for a long time now.
The opener scored an unbeaten double century against Sri Lanka and then backed it up, ending as the highest run-scorer for New Zealand on tour to the island nation this year. He scored 229 runs from 3 games against a good Sri Lankan bowling attack.
The skipper returns
The good news for New Zealand is that following is hip troubles, Kane Williamson has regained fitness and will be back in the Test series. The skipper was the highest run-scorer for them in the three-match Test series against Pakistan held in UAE.
Williamson scored 386 runs from 6 innings in the series at an average of more than 75. When Sri Lanka toured New Zealand, he contributed 141 runs from 3 innings at an average of 47. In the series against Bangladesh as well, Williamson scored 274 runs from just two innings and played some sumptuous strokes.
Wicket keeper BJ Watling has also grown as a Test batsman. He was the second-highest run-scorer for New Zealand on the tour of Sri Lanka with 183 runs from three games. More importantly, he scored at crunch situations and played a major role in helping the team level the series.
An effective pace trio
The pace trio of Trent Boult, Tim Southee and Neil Wagner has returned with great figures in Test cricket of late. Southee was the most successful bowler for New Zealand in the Test series against Sri Lanka with 13 wickets at an average of 16 and proved a nightmare for the batsmen in conducive conditions.
The three also provide wide variety. While Southee is a medium-pace swing bowler, Boult offers extra pace and an awkward left-arm angle. Neil Wagner has mastered his own method to trouble both the top order and the tail-enders with his extremely well-directed short pitch bowling.
All-rounder Colin de Grandhomme, with his gentle swingers, adds another facet to this attack.
Lockie Ferguson and Matt Henry next in line
The New Zealand selectors have also gone for Lockie Ferguson and Matt Henry, the team's heroes at the 2019 World Cup. The Kiwi camp has pointed at a certain rotation policy given New Zealand's busy cricket season.
"There's no doubt Lockie has been knocking on the door for a while now and we're delighted to finally bring him into the Test fold. It's well documented he has raw pace, but he also possesses a quality bowling skillset and has proved his durability.
"Our pace bowling stocks are strong at the moment and we feel Lockie will add another dimension to the picture and will create some great competition," said selector Gavin Larsen.
Ferguson has picked up 153 wickets at an average of 24.30 from 42 first-class games and is no mug as far as red-ball cricket is concerned. He is in line to make his Test debut and is bound to trouble the opposition batsmen with his extra pace.
Jeetan Patel and William Somerville set the stage on fire for New Zealand in the Test series against Pakistan in UAE. While Patel picked up 13 wickets in the series, Somerville snaffled 7 in the Abu Dhabi Test itself. The competition in the side on this front is so tough that both have still not found a place in the squad.
Instead, Todd Astle has been selected as the second spinner alongside Mitchell Santner. Santner himself does not have a great Test record with his bowling average touching 40. But, his contributions with the bat come in handy.
To add to that, you are hardly going to run through sides using a spinner in New Zealand and it is more about control. This is exactly what Satner provides, with his ability to bowl on a patch day in and day out. This will help New Zealand bottle one end up while the pacers attack from the other end.
Test squad for England series: Kane Williamson (c), Todd Astle, Tom Blundell, Trent Boult, Colin de Grandhomme, Lockie Ferguson, Matt Henry, Tom Latham, Henry Nicholls, Jeet Raval, Mitchell Santner, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor, Neil Wagner, BJ Watling (wk)
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