By William Hill
Last Updated: 20th November 2019
Fresh from a T20 series victory, England’s tour of New Zealand continues this week as Chris Silverwood prepares for his first Test match since taking over as head coach, with his side facing a two-match series against the Black Caps.
Burns and Sibley to ignite Silverwood era?
While England come into these two Tests off the back of a drawn Ashes series in the summer, it was a series that threw up more questions than answers for Joe Root’s men. On the back foot for much of the series, thanks mostly to the super-human powers of Steve Smith, many of England’s trusted stars failed to deliver on a consistent basis, with Ben Stokes’ Headingly heroics helping to paper over a few cracks.
Now under the guidance of Silverwood following the departure of Trevor Bayliss, England will be hoping the reshuffle helps to refresh a side that may have been guilty of prioritising white-ball cricket in recent years en route to last summer’s triumphant World Cup campaign.
Ahead of this series, England’s opening partnership certainly looks to have been refreshed. Not since the days of Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook have England truly had an opening partnership to place your trust in, but with Dom Sibley set to open with former Surrey team-mate Rory Burns perhaps that could be about to change?
It’s a big ask and we’ve been here many times before, but Burns was very solid, if not spectacular, in the Ashes, and expect his Test career to continue to blossom in New Zealand. Sibley, meanwhile, comes into this clash fresh from recording a century in one of England’s warm-up matches, not to mention after having been the only batsman to make more than 1,000 runs in Division One of the County Championship last season. Granted, the arena of Test match cricket throws up a completely different challenge, but Burns and Sibley are 10/3 and 9/2 respectively to finish as England’s top batsman in the first innings and could be worth a flutter.
Archer England’s weapon once more
What a start to his England career Jofra Archer has had. Six months on, it seems quite remarkable that some were calling for the Barbados-born fast bowler to be left out of England’s World Cup squad. How wrong they were as he proved to be one of the nation’s players of the tournament, with his super over in the final against New Zealand inspiring England to victory. While certain England players toiled in the Ashes, Archer enjoyed an excellent start to Test cricket, having a big impact on the Lord’s, Headingley and Oval Tests.
Archer was rested for England’s T20 series victory over New Zealand, meaning he should be raring to go when Thursday’s Test gets going. The pitch at the Bay Oval this week looks like it could be pretty flat, so there could well be plenty of joy to be had for Archer against New Zealand’s batters.
Root’s challenge as captain will be not to overuse his mercurial talent too much, particularly with his recent injury problems, with Stuart Broad, Jack Leach and Sam Curran also among those at his disposal. That said, Archer to be top England bowler and England to win the first Test has been enhanced to 8/1 and could be tempting.
Williamson and Boult New Zealand’s danger men
England only need to look back to their tour of New Zealand two years ago for some cautionary advice heading into this one. They lost that two-match series 1-0 after a horrific collapse which saw them bowled out for 58 – their sixth lowest Test total in history at the time – in the first innings of the first Test, after which they struggled to recover.
With England’s problem against Australia in the Ashes also proving to be their inability to consistently post decent scores in their first innings – they were skittled out for just 67 at Headingley – New Zealand’s bowling attack, boasting the likes of Trent Boult and Tim Southee, will look to put the visitors on the back foot from the off and put some real pressure on a top order that has undergone a number of changes this year, with Root and Denly swapping roles once more for this Test. Uncapped Lockie Ferguson is waiting in the wings should the Black Caps attack misfire in the first Test.
With the superlative Kane Williamson – ranked the third best batsman in the world – fit again and leading the charge with the bat alongside Tom Latham and Co, it looks like being a tight but very competitive Test between two of the three best Test teams in the world. Second-ranked New Zealand are 21/20 favourites for the first Test, with third-ranked England 29/20. And talking of Williamson, he and Root both to score a 50 in the first innings, incidentally, is 4/1.
Vaughan backing England to edge series
Meanwhile, we’ve also been speaking to former England captain Michael Vaughan, who is also expecting a tight Test series, but one which the visitors should approach with confidence. That could be good news for England given Vaughan predicted the correct result for the recent T20 series and also got his Ashes predictions spot on.
He said: “It’s tough to call. Two tight teams. England are on just a little bit of something, I think they found a way of playing against the Aussies at the end. I think they’ve learned how to bat, or they’re trying to bat longer periods, bat the old way, the kind of conventional Test match way.
“I like the look of the top six. Ollie Pope at six, I like that. Dom Sibley looks an opening batsman with the right mentality, him and Rory Burns at the top. Joe Root back to four. So I’m liking what England are doing, Jos Buttler at seven. Jofra Archer, he’ll be the difference. He’s the difference that England have been lacking overseas with the Kookaburra ball.
“But England will have to be wary of Trent Boult. Boult will swing it back into the right-hander’s pad. He’s the real threat for New Zealand. Lockie Ferguson, he’s been selected [in the squad] again – pace. I think it’ll be a series where the pace makes the difference because the pitches will be flat. Two grounds where you’d expect decent scores, pitches won’t have a huge amount of pace in them. So the difference will be Archer, Boult, Lockie Ferguson, those style of players.
“I just fancy England 1-0. There will be a draw. I think they’ll get a bit of weather. Pitches will be good, teams will bat long. I’m going England 1-0. New Zealand beat England there a year or so ago 1-0. I think England will repay that result back.”