It will be a match-up between two equal opponents. England and New Zealand have had an overwhelming year and were involved in the most memorable match of the decade – the ICC World Cup 2019 final that ended in a stunning tie.
The two teams will now be engaged in a cracker of a Test series as England tours New Zealand for a two-Test series that begins on November 21 at Bay Oval. England’s Test form is decent – they couldn’t retain the Ashes but managed to draw the series 2-2 against Australia earlier this year. New Zealand, meanwhile, also drew a Test series in Sri Lanka 1-1.
Moreover, in the last 5 Tests between New Zealand and England, both the teams have won two games each while one match ended in a draw. Thus, there is not much separating the two sides when they take each other on in the 1st Test of the series.
New Zealand will have the edge as they are playing at home. Captain Kane Williamson is expected to lead from the front and has been in good form. The experienced Ross Taylor, along with Tom Latham, Henry Nicholls and BJ Watling could be the impact-makers in this Test. All-rounder Colin de Grandhomme has significantly improved his Test batting and could well be the game changer for the Kiwis.
The New Zealand bowling unit is very good and perfect for these conditions. Trent Boult and Tim Southee will be a handful in these conditions and England need to be wary of them. Colin de Grandhomme might be useful too in the 4th innings. Off-spinner William Somerville was very good against Pakistan last year and if picked might cause troubles to England’s batting.
Meanwhile, England will have to put a solid performance in the 1st Test if they hope to put pressure on the home side. Their batting in the Ashes this year wasn’t the best and captain Joe Root (588 runs in last 10 games would have to lead from the front. Rory Burns and Joe Denly can make valuable contributions in the game. However, the impact-makers are likely to be wicket-keeper Jos Buttler and all-rounder Ben Stokes (726 runs in last 10 games) who has been in outstanding form this year.
England’s bowling has suffered a setback with the injury to James Anderson. However, Stuart Broad has done a terrific job and would be leading from the front in this match. Pacer Jofra Archer has been sensational this year and can be the main weapon for England. Then there is Ben Stokes and leg-spinner Adil Rashid to provide good back up.
Match prediction – New Zealand vs England, 1st Test:
The last time England had toured New Zealand for a Test series, in 2017, they were beaten 0-1. Before that, New Zealand had drawn the Test series 1-1 when they had toured England in 2015. England would have to produce something special to turn things around. Lest one forget, New Zealand are currently placed second in the ICC World Test Championship Table and England are fifth.
This will be the first Test played at Bay Oval, Mount Maunganui. This is generally a good batting surface with help for the seam bowlers. The pitch for the 1st Test between New Zealand and England is expected to be a typical New Zealand one – with great swing and seam in the first half on all the days and good for batting post lunch.
New Zealand is very good at home and would be tough to beat given the all-round composition of their side and current form. While England will put up a good fight and might just surprise the opposition, it looks unlikely. New Zealand should be the winners of this Test match.