March has a special place in New Zealand Cricket history. Almost 26 years back, they played a historic semifinal against Pakistan at Eden Park and nearly 2 and half decades later, the same venue will witness another history as the country is all set up to host its first ever Day/Night Test against England.
On Thursday when New Zealand and England will resume their test battle in country’s first ever day-night test and also at the ground where it ended in the last tour in 2012-13. In March 2013, Eden Park witnessed one of the most thrilling tests of the decade when Matt Prior and Monty Panesar hanged on to defy Brendon McCullum’s men to a historic win.
Indeed New Zealand tried their best that day, but they just couldn’t get past a spirited Matt Prior who was determined to save England. In the end, England saved themselves with a draw and ended the series 0-0 as they left Eden Park. This is the reason why Eden Park will be the perfect place to resume the battle among two sides in which a lot of things are on the line for both teams.
New Zealand have won only one series at home against England, way back in 1983-84. With arguably the best test bowling attack they might have a golden opportunity to seize this time around against an English test side which was defeated 4-0 three months back on the other side of Tasman.
In Jeet Raval and Tom Latham, they have young able openers who have performed ably in recent times. At no.3, Kane Williamson will return to his favourite format. Ross Taylor return to fitness have given much solidity to the New Zealand batting, While Taylor was recovering New Zealand called Martin Guptill as his cover, which though will not be needed now. Henry Nicholls has made the no.5 spot his own, and he will try to provide solidity to the batting order with Colin De Grandhomme and BJ Watling.
Watling has returned almost after a year. However, during this period he has missed only two tests, which shows the continuous decrease in the number of tests which New Zealand has started to play off late. In bowling, Todd Astle will replace Mitchell Santner who has gone through knee surgery while Tim Southee, Trent Boult and Neil Wagner will again unite to form the formidable pace attack that has reaped huge success in last 5 years for the Kiwis.
England, on the other hand, have their own issues, they have some tough tours in last few years losing 0-4 in Australia and India in past 16 months which have shown their weakness in foreign conditions. It’s time Alastair Cook and Joe Root take the responsibility of senior men. Cook had disappointing Australia tour where apart from double hundred at MCG he looked a pale shadow of himself. He needs to find the groove to give young men around him more time to settle.
Mark Stoneman, Jame Vince and David Malan will be taking guard once again. However, apart from Malan no once place can be said as secured for upcoming home summer, so this might be the time to hit the bullseye. England’s firepower unlike some of the other countries starts from no. 6-9 a place vouched by all-rounders like Ben Stokes, Jonny Bairstow, Moeen Ali and Chris Woakes. The return of Stokes will be a major boost for England.
Stuart Broad and James Anderson will be once again sharing the bowling duty though chances are Chris Woakes might get the new ball ahead of Broad who is on the cusp of a significant milestone as the speedster sits at 399 wickets.
Both England and New Zealand have excellent bowling line-up but have their own weakness as well. While England have been weak at the top of the order, New Zealand have found it tough in middle order without Williamson and Taylor’s contribution. On man to man comparison, England seem to have an edge, but New Zealand will be hungry to notch up their only second win at home against Englishmen and considering they are an excellent side in their own conditions, they have great chance to create history. It will be exciting 10 days of Cricket that lies ahead of us. The series result will define how New Zealand see their home summer of 2017-18.