First Test: New Zealand vs England Preview
New Zealand get an opportunity to show they are superior to England in at least one format when the Test series gets underway.
For many of England’s Test regulars, this will be the first earnest action of the 2019/20 season.
The Black Caps welcome back their skipper and run machine Kane Williamson hoping he will tip the scales in their favour. The captain has played just one first-class match since the end of the tour to Sri Lanka in August.
New Zealand fast bowler Lockie Ferguson has received his maiden call-up but he still faces a stiff task to displace any one of Trent Boult, Tim Southee and Neil Wagner. Ferguson’s best chance of a debut is if the Kiwis opt to pick an extra quick.
The Black Caps are ranked just above England in the Test rankings in second behind India and will be a tough nut to crack for a team looking to change their fortunes.
New Zealand’s settled middle-order should be their strength with Williamson, Ross Taylor and Henry Nicholls looking a solid unit.
The match will be the first-ever Test match hosted at the Bay Oval, the home ground of Williamson, Southee, Boult and Colin de Grandhomme.
England come into this series looking for answers and direction ahead of a crucial period on the road in Test cricket.
The warm-up draw against New Zealand A provided the tourists with some much needed time in the middle. Jos Buttler made the most of the opportunity, scoring a century to fire a warning shot ahead of the series.
There were also runs for the out-of-sorts Ollie Pope and Joe Denly who are yet to establish themselves as Test regulars.
Jonny Bairstow begins the Test season without the gloves with Chief Selector Ed Smith keen to persuade him his future lies as a specialist batsman.
Jofra Archer and Sam Curran bowled well in patches against New Zealand A, but there will be fears that England’s pace attack could be underdone.
Prediction – First Test
New Zealand 14/10
The home side should have a slight edge.