New England pose new challenge

Test involving India & hosts to begin on July 1; Stokes’ men upbeat after strong show vs NZ

Published: 28th June 2022 08:22 AM  |   Last Updated: 28th June 2022 08:22 AM   |  A+A-

England's Jack Leach, third right, celebrates with teammates the dismissal of New Zealand's Henry Nicholls during the first day of the third Test match. (Photo | AP)

Express News Service

CHENNAI:  A lot has changed in the England Test team setup since the last summer. As the then Virat Kohli-led India looked all set to scale a peak after notching victories at Lord’s and the Oval only to return home following a Covid outbreak in the team with one Test left, little did anyone know, a year later, when the two teams meet again, things would be so drastically different.

Both India and England have since changed their captains. In the former’s case, it looked improbable, and for Joe Root, there was simply no other possibility the moment his England side suffered another Ashes calamity Down Under. India, under a new captain and head coach — Rohit Sharma and Rahul Dravid respectively — have pressed a transition phase and have a lot of work to do for qualifying for a second successive World Test Championship final.

But it is England which look unrecognizable. Under Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum, their long-format coach, they blanked WTC champions New Zealand 3-0 at home on Monday. And more than the scoreline, it is the manner in which they did it that has made everyone sit up and take notice. While these are definitely early days and the Kiwis missed several key players throughout the series, for a change all the talk of New England definitely looks a part.

Look at these numbers. England scored their runs at 4.54 an over this series. And in a format where batting more overs was as good as winning, England won the third Test at Leeds on Monday putting that theory to bed. Across two innings, New Zealand batted 222.5 overs (117.3 & 105.2), England faced only half of it, 121.2 overs, as their counter-attacking approach — from 55/6, they posted 360 in first innings – showed a glimpse of what Stokes-McCullum combo has to offer. 

While in Jonny Bairstow and Stokes, they do have batters to do that, nothing drove home the point more than Joe Root. A batter, who no longer plays T20 for England and has no takers in any of the T20 leagues overseas, the tag of a classical Test batter fits perfectly over him. But in this series, he reverse-scooped Tim Southee for a six at Trent Bridge and at Leeds, with the Test match on the line, brought out a reverse-sweep against Neil Wagner that cleared the boundary.

“It’s about the change of the mindset of the lads towards Test cricket. To say that we have done it so quickly is unbelievable. Huge credit to Brendon and the backroom staff. Trent Bridge was incredible but being 55 for 6 and then doing what we did and the manner in which we did was the most pleasing thing. It has really set the level people want to come in and perform for the Test side,” Stokes told Sky Sports.

As India are preparing for a showdown at Edgbaston from July 1, they would be aware of the challenge that lies ahead. Playing one-off Test is never easy, especially when the focus has been on their white-ball fortunes. 

While the practice match against Leicester would have warmed them up for red-ball cricket, India have their concerns. Infected with Covid, Rohit is not a certainty and there is no KL Rahul, who looked so assured at the top last summer. But as has been the case, it is the bowling unit that gives India hope, and how well they respond to New England would decide if they can lay their hands on the Pataudi Trophy for only the second time in their history.
 



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