Gallagher Premiership Highlights - Round 21Mar 27
New Zealand vs England: Relentless tourists chase series victory in Wellington
England target another victory in their final Test assignment of the winter, with all the action from the second Test exclusively live on BT Sport.
England’s intrepid Test team scaled new heights with an impressive 267-run win over New Zealand in Mount Maunganui and Ben Stokes’ side are on the cusp of another series victory with one match remaining in Wellington.
Their stunning form under Stokes and Brendan McCullum continued with their first Test win in New Zealand for 15 years and a 10th win in 11 matches. It was also their first ever overseas win in a day-night Test with the pink ball.
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An unwavering commitment to an enterprising style of play and enjoyment on and off the field has liberated a squad at its lowest ebb and created a relentless winning machine.
It is the first time since 2010 when Andrew Strauss took England to the top of the world rankings that England have won six Tests in a row.
Their latest victory was inspired by the ageless James Anderson and Stuart Broad who combined to take the game away from the hosts with a clinical exhibition of seam bowling.
Anderson, who this week usurped Australian Pat Cummins as the number one Test bowler in the world at the age of 40, picked up seven wickets in the opener including 4-18 in the second innings.
A devastating burst of 4-21 in 10 overs from Broad on day three set the tone for the tourists and the pair became just the second bowling partnership in history to claim 1,000 Test wickets together.
There were plenty of other positives for England in Tauranga, from Harry Brook scooping the Player of the Match award for the third game running to Ollie Robinson showing he is ready to lead England’s attack when Anderson and Broad eventually step aside.
Wicketkeeper Ben Foakes, who this week said he was “not stressing” about the impending return of Jonny Bairstow, also made useful runs and demonstrated his prowess behind the stumps.
Former captain Joe Root said his second-innings half-century gave him a “kick up the backside” after an uncharacteristic lean spell with the bat that has seen him go seven Tests without making a hundred.
“I’ve not performed for a little while, so I had the bit between my teeth in the second innings,” he added.
“It’s given me a little sharpener, a kick up the backside, that this is how I need to play my cricket, how I can be consistently useful in this group.”
Stokes has named an unchanged side for the second Test despite Anderson, Broad and Robinson all reporting stiffness after their exertions in Mount Maunganui.
“It looks like the lines for the wicket have been painted on the outfield,” said Stokes. “But I think that’s generally how the wickets do look here at the Basin. You can’t read too much into it. The ball can nip around but it can also be incredibly flat. The pace of the wicket can be a huge advantage to the batters.
“I’m not going to lie, the bowlers were licking their lips. They might have been stiff yesterday, but after they looked at the pitch they felt a little bit looser. They are all looking forward to bowling this week.”
Conversely, New Zealand have been in steady decline since their World Test Championship win in 2021. They have won just five of their past 16 matches and were comfortably outplayed in the opening match.
Cyclone Gabrielle significantly impacted their preparation with bowlers Scott Kuggeleijn and Blair Tickner – who made his debut despite his father’s home in the Napier area being destroyed – drafted in and their attack was unable to contain a rampant England.
Matt Henry is likely to come straight back into the side after missing the first Test to attend the birth of his daughter, but Kyle Jamieson is absent through injury and Trent Boult remains unavailable after being released from his central contract.
Henry has taken 55 wickets in 18 matches at an average of 41.09 and will be expected to provide some much-needed control as England look to accelerate with the bat.
Tom Blundell’s career-best 138 in the first innings which dragged the hosts back in to the contest was the obvious highpoint in an otherwise dispiriting performance which left them winless in their last seven Tests.
“I don’t think it’s unfair to say we are lacking a bit of that confidence at the moment,” said head coach Gary Stead whose side have won their last three Tests at the Basin Reserve. “But I can assure you the faith is still with this group of guys.
“We’re going to put everything behind them to make sure we go out there in Wellington and really throw some punches back at England.”
Buoyant England head south to the windy city of Wellington hoping their ambitions of a series victory are not blown off course in their final Test assignment of the winter.
Watch the second Test between New Zealand and England from 9.15pm on Thursday 23 February on BT Sport 3.