Those players who took part in the 2002 Test between these sides at Eden Park may think they played the first day-night Test. On the fourth evening, New Zealand batted on a dank evening illuminated by the lights much to the disgruntlement of England. That, of course, was with the red ball. Now it’s time for the real thing with the pink one.
New Zealand were the opposition for the inaugural day-night Test in Adelaide. That match had an experimental feel and there was $1 million on the table to help persuade New Zealand to take part. This is the ninth day-night Test with New Zealand the fifty country to host one. It has started to feel a little bit more part of the landscape. Summer is just about clinging on in the land of long white cloud and there will be plenty of silent prayers and crossed fingers that a distinctly average forecast for later in the week does not turn into reality.
Though New Zealand were among the first two teams to experience floodlit Test cricket it remains their only one while England have now had two themselves following outings at Edgbaston and Adelaide. Their tally is a win and a loss. There have been plenty of moments when the bowlers have dominated as the sun sets and the pink ball begins to glow. Such periods could be defining in this match with both teams possessing high-quality seamers; outright pace is not such a necessity when the ball moves.
Who starts favourites? It’s a tough call. It will be 98 days since New Zealand finished their previous Test, against West Indies in Hamilton, and England are coming off the back of the 4-0 Ashes loss. Both teams will be feeling their way. If England have Ben Stokes as a fully-fledged allrounder and Chris Woakes at No. 9, that will be a very long batting line-up and may tip things just the visitors’ way. But beware the home side’s trio of pacemen, plus the world-class pairing of Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor.
This next two weeks, weather permitting, will define how New Zealand’s season is remembered. Share the spoils 1-1 and it will be a pass mark, secure just a fourth series win over England and it would go down as a major success. England, on their part, have a miserable recent record overseas which Joe Root is eager to put right. There is much to play. Please summer, stay for another two weeks.
(last five completed matches, most recent first)
New Zealand WWDLD
In the spotlight
Ross Taylor was in the form of his life during the one-day series, smashing two match-winning centuries including his 181 in Dunedin. He hasn’t been going too badly in Tests, either, with 408 runs at 81.60 in five matches since eye surgery – and a century in the match before that as well. But he is coming into this series after twice pulling up during the ODIs with thigh injuries. As was seen then, there is no replacement for Taylor. That goes for Test cricket as well. New Zealand will be hoping he can make it through the final portion of the season.
Stuart Broad sits on 399 Test wickets but faces a demotion. He appears likely to lose the new ball, at least in part, as Root aims to shake up the bowling attack. In public, Broad is taking it well, but any quick worth his salt would be a little annoyed by such a move whatever tactical plans are explained. He went through a similar fate last time in New Zealand, losing the new ball to Steven Finn following an injury-hit tour to India. He had it back before the series was done. What price Taylor to be his milestone wicket? Broad has dismissed him nine times in Tests, more than any other bowler.
Taylor has been passed fit – after both his thigh injury and illness last week caught off his children – and Todd Astle replaces the injured Mitchell Santner, for his third Test in five and a half years, which means Matt Henry will remain on the sidelines. BJ Watling, meanwhile, returns for his first Test in nearly a year.
New Zealand 1 Jeet Raval, 2 Tom Latham, 3 Kane Williamson (capt), 4 Ross Taylor, 5 Henry Nicholls, 6 BJ Watling (wk), 7 Colin de Grandhomme, 8 Todd Astle, 9 Tim Southee, 10 Neil Wagner, 11 Trent Boult
Root said he knew his team but hadn’t told those not playing, so was not able to confirm it the day before the match. The signs were that it was heading towards Stokes being able to take his place in a five-man attack which means James Vince is safe for now.
England (probable) 1 Alastair Cook, 2 Mark Stoneman, 3 James Vince, 4 Joe Root (capt), 5 Dawid Malan, 6 Ben Stokes, 7 Jonny Bairstow (wk), 8 Moeen Ali, 9 Chris Woakes, 10 Stuart Broad, 11 James Anderson
Pitch and conditions
Blair Christiansen, the Eden Park groundsman, said he had left a little bit more grass on than usual but nothing extravagant. He expects it to be a result wicket, although the weather may yet play a part in that with showers forecast on most days and steadier rain for Saturday. As ever in pink ball Tests, the twilight period will be fascinating.
Stats and trivia
Since 2011, when Pakistan won a two-Test series 2-1, only South Africa and Australia have won series in New Zealand. The home side has won seven series and a one-off Test against Zimbabwe.
Stuart Broad will become the 15th bowler to take 400 Test wickets. Next in his sights is Curtly Ambrose’s tally of 405.
Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor are tied on 17 Tests centuries, equal with Martin Crowe as the most for New Zealand.
If England fail to win in Auckland it will equal their longest winless run away from home of 12 matches, previously achieved between February 1939 to March 1948.
“Opportunities to prepare for pink-ball Tests are limited, because there isn’t a huge amount of it, but in the last week and a half, there’s been a number of occasions when we’ve been able to get out and practice against the pink ball at different stages of the evening.”
Kane Williamson is confident his team will be ready
“It has been a tough winter until now but we have two Test matches to put a different stamp on this winter and change our momentum going into the summer, which again has some really big cricket coming up.”
Joe Root is eager to move on from the Ashes