A eighth series win in 10 is in sights of New Zealand as the hosts get ready to lock horns with England in the second and final Test which begins in Hamilton on Friday.
Ranked No2 in the format, Kane Williamson and his men are making quite the statement with their innings victory in first Test further bolstering their red-ball credentials.
The same cannot be said for England, however, with Chris Silverwood’s first Test assignment ending in tatters ultimately.
The England head coach will now miss a large chunk of the Hamilton Test to return home early after a family bereavement.
Hosts dealing with injury setbacks
While it went well for the Kiwis at Mount Maunganui, they do have a few headaches to face ahead of the final Test. Muscular injuries have ruled out their premier red-ball pacer Trent Boult as well as all-rounder Colin de Grandhomme.
Boult’s injury came in the first Test with the southpaw bowling just the one over on the final day as New Zealand pushed for victory. Boult’s absence could open the door for a Test debut for Lockie Ferguson with the expressed pacer being earmarked as a big threat by head coach Gary Stead ahead of the series.
Ferguson will face stiff competition from Matt Henry, however, with the latter having the experience of 10 previous appearances under his belt.
De Grandhomme’s shoes though, will be much tougher to fill with the all-rounder chipping in with a vital 65 in the first Test while also claiming three wicket with his medium pace.
New Zealand have called up Daryl Mitchell as a replacement and they will hope that the fellow all-rounder can make a similar impact at Hamilton.
Pressure rising on Root’s captaincy
The England Test captaincy has now been kind to Joe Root with the right-hander’s own batting suffering as a result. Following his scores of two and 11 in the first Test, the right-hander’s batting average as skipper has dipped below 40 for the first time in his career.
For a man who used to average above 50 comfortably before taking on the responsibility of captaincy, it is quite the fall. In fact, in 2019 alone, Root has only averaged a dismal 27.4 in 10 Tests and that has only led to increase the scrutiny even further.
Such has been the fallout that both England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) director Ashley Giles and Test vice-captain Ben Stokes have come out in support of Root’s leadership in recent days.
“Joe knows that he’s got the backing of everybody in the changing room: players, backroom staff and management,” Stokes said. “That’s the main thing that counts for us as players in a very tightknit group. He knows that everybody in that changing room 100 per cent backs him, as I do.”
While the vocal backing will be welcome for Root, he needs to start making more of his batting talents soon rather than later. England will be faced with the difficult decision of choosing another captain for the greater good of both Root and the team.
Focus on England’s other batsmen as well
While Root’s batting woes have milked the spotlight, there are others in England’s batting unit who will be facing the music as well after their displays at the Bay Oval.
Debutant Dominic Sibley failed to get going in his maiden bow after impressing in the warm-ups with a century while fellow youngster Ollie Pope didn’t move mountains either. The worst culprit, arguably, was Jos Buttler who will not want to watch replays of his second innings dismissal any time soon.
At the forefront of England’s crushing loss was their batting fragility with the visitors paying the price for not putting up at least 450 runs after batting first on an excellent pitch. England’s batsmen have been blamed for taking a limited-overs approach to Test cricket and it is a criticism Root wants to shake off quickly.
“We have to be honest with ourselves, not panic, not think that it’s the end of the world, and make sure that we continue to work really hard,” he said after the first Test defeat.
“It’s a mentality thing more than a technical thing – it’s a mindset thing. So trying to harness that early and trying to learn from mistakes like this game and move on very quickly from it. If we can do that, then we’ll see rapid improvements.”
The proof will be in the pudding, however, for England and they will need to show considerable improvements in Hamilton if they are to bolster their Test credentials.
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