England v New Zealand: start of a new era in English cricket under Stokes and McCullum

Veteran seamers Anderson and Broad back in the fold for Test series against world champions

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The world champions of Test cricket will return to the site of a recent glory when New Zealand face England in the first Test of the UK summer, starting at Lord's on Thursday.

It might all feel a little bit weird for the touring side this time around, though, a year to the day since the sides last met at the same venue.

One of their all-time greats is no longer part of their set up, while another will be sat on the opposition balcony trying to plot their downfall.

And, for all the gravitas having Test cricket’s first official world champs in town, all of the intrigue really centres on their hosts instead.

New dawn

The corridors of power within English cricket have had not so much a clear out as an industrial deep clean, and the Ben Stokes, Brendon McCullum and Rob Key era starts here.

They are respectively the new captain, coach and managing director and – given the profile of each – optimism abounds.

Whether or not each can bring about meaningful change straight away remains to be seen. In truth, there is likely to be the odd blowout along the way.

But one thing is for sure: it will be fun watching them attempt to right the listing ship that is English Test cricket.

“There has been plenty of talk about this word ‘reset’, which is not something I particularly like,” Stokes said.

“I just see this as a complete and utter blank canvas for this Test team going forward.”

Hottest ticket? Hardly

Stokes and McCullum in harness should be box office, right? Two of the most pyrotechnic cricketers in history in company as a captain/coach dynamic duo for England.

Between them, they possess the records for Test cricket’s fastest ton – McCullum’s 54-ball effort against Australia - and its second-fastest double – Stokes against South Africa, bettered only by Nathan Astle. Pitting them together is like playing a game of Fantasy Stick Cricket.

And yet said box office has been worryingly underemployed. Thousands of tickets have been left unsold for the Lord’s Test.

The organisers have claimed it is due in part to Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations. And nothing to do with the fact a parent and two kids would be out of pocket to the tune of £420 for attending a day’s play, of course.

Broaderson

For all the freshness in the home team dressing room this week, there are also a couple of things which feel as entrenched as the Father Time weather-vane.

James Anderson and Stuart Broad surely feared their time in the game was up when they were jettisoned from England’s set-up for the tour of West Indies earlier this year.

The shake up at the top of the game – Joe Root and Chris Silverwood making way as captain and coach, among other things – has led to them being brought back.

Anderson will turn 40 next month. Broad will be 36 before the end of July.

Despite their vintage, it seems a logical step to restore them to a bowling attack which might also include the future of English fast bowling, in the form of 23-year-old debutant Matthew Potts.

Black Caps’ black marks

It is less than a year since New Zealand won the Test World Championship when they beat India in Southampton.

The prestige that such a title confers does not necessarily sit comfortably with a side who are clearly happy to fly under the radar.

The path has not run especially true since they became world champs, either. Ross Taylor, who hit the winning runs back then, is now retired.

Trent Boult is a doubt for the first Test, given he only arrived in the UK from Rajasthan Royals’ IPL-final duty on Monday. Henry Nicholls will be absent through injury.

And their form on tour so far has been indifferent, too. In their warm up before the Test series, New Zealand lost to a scratch XI made up of county players, with only one player – captain Dom Sibley – who had previously played for England.

Updated: June 02, 2022, 2:19 AM
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