Ben Stokes has said Brendon McCullum has already made England players “feel 10 feet tall” ahead of the coach’s first test against the coach’s native New Zealand at Lord’s starting Thursday. The three-game series opener will be the first in England since new Test captain Stokes, himself born in New Zealand but raised in Cumbria, north-west England, succeeded Joe Root as skipper. It will also be England’s first game after the appointment of former New Zealand captain McCullum as their Test coach, with the new leadership duo looking to revive the fortunes of a team that has only had one of their last 17 games at this level. won and passed. 12 months without a red ball series win.
They now face a New Zealand squad who under Kane Williamson, McCullum’s successor as captain, became the inaugural World Test champion by beating India in the final at Southampton last year, shortly after they took a 1-0 loss. campaign victory in England.
Despite all the talk of a fresh start, England only had one debutant in fast bowler Matthew Potts when they called out a familiar-looking XI on Wednesday.
Nevertheless, the influence of the dynamic all-rounder Stokes has led to the recall of veteran new-ball duo James Anderson and Stuart Broad.
The pair, England’s two most successful bowlers at this level, with 1,177 Test wickets between them, were controversially left out of a recent 1-0 series loss in the Caribbean.
Stokes also led the way in the decision to promote Ollie Pope to number three, despite the Surrey batsman’s modest test record, with star batsman Root now back at his favorite position of number four, and to keep struggling opener Zak Crawley.
“I’ve said to the guys who are now competing, you have the support,” Stokes told a press conference ahead of the game at Lord’s on Wednesday. “This is our time and we are going to dictate how things go on… I just want everyone to feel free under my captaincy.
“It’s been a good few days working with Brendon. He wants to make everyone feel, in his own words, ‘3 meters tall’. I’m not really nervous – I’m just really excited to join the to get going.”
Potts, a county team-mate of Stokes in Durham, is getting his chance after an injury crisis robbed England of several fast bowlers, including Mark Wood, Chris Woakes, Ollie Robinson and Jofra Archer, while the 23-year-old took 35 wickets in six County Championship matches this season.
New Zealand have yet to name their XI, although Daryl Mitchell will replace sideline batsman Henry Nicholls.
But doubts remain as to whether Trent Boult with the protruding left arm can play a part at Lord’s, as he only arrived in England after playing in the Indian Premier League final last weekend.
New Zealand, with Tim Southee, Matt Henry, Neil Wagner and Kyle Jameson all on their squad, has plenty of other pacesetters capable of challenging England’s fallible top order.
“Trent is a world-class player, but we have a lot of variety in our bowling attack,” Williamson said.
One of the world’s leading batsmen, the 31-year-old added that he is fully fit after an elbow injury and is looking forward to leading his squad of “purists” at Lord’s, where Williamson already has a coveted place on the dressing room honors board. has. to 100 he made against England on the London grounds in 2015.
However, the teams may not be greeted by a traditionally packed house for a test at the ‘Home of Cricket’, with thousands of tickets, some costing as much as £160 ($202) a day, still to be sold for a fee. and the rival attractions offered this week by the platinum anniversary of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II, who is also New Zealand’s head of state.
A concerned Stokes said: “The ticket price is something I think needs to be looked at closely because what is cricket without its fans? What is sport without its fans?”