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International cricket is back in New Zealand. The last time they played at home – the Christchurch Test against India that ended on March 2 – the coronavirus had just started to send shockwaves across the globe. And things spiralled very quickly. Their tour to Australia later that month was cut short after a behind-closed-doors ODI in Sydney, and they became the last teams to play an international cricket match before the world went into lockdown.

Four months later, West Indies became the first international side to embark on a tour during the pandemic, when they visited England in July. New Zealand, though, have had to wait despite their relative success at controlling community spread of the virus. Strict protocols are still in place, but – excitingly for the teams, no doubt – they will be playing in front of a crowd.

Both sides will be missing a number of big names due to injury or workload management. Many players coming into the series have hardly played any cricket for a while, while a few others are having to deal with the rigours of moving from one biobubble to another. The IPL returnees hardly got to train with the squad, having finished their quarantine just a day before the series. Both teams will look to shake off the rust and brace themselves for relatively busy schedules over the next 12 months, leading to the 2021 T20 World Cup in India. They will also be looking to begin work on sorting out their best XI and back-up options for that showpiece tournament.

Form guide

New Zealand LLLLL (Last five completed matches, most recent first) West Indies WWWLL

In the spotlight

Many have likened the batting style of wicketkeeper-batsman Tim Seifert to that of Brendon McCullum. The big-hitting top-order batsman had an incredible run in the Super Smash last season and also impressed with two half-centuries against India in the T20I series at home earlier this year. He was part of the champions Trinbago Knight Riders side at the CPL and then flew to the UAE to join his IPL team the Kolkata Knight Riders, where he didn’t get a chance in the starting XI. McCullum himself, who’s the guest coach at the Managed Isolation Quarantine and has been part of the coaching set-up of the Knight Riders’ franchise in the IPL as well as the CPL, thinks Seifert is “in for a breakout season for the Black Caps”.

Fabian Allen has shown promise, but the last few months have not been easy for him. He was ruled out of the CPL after missing his flight and did not get a chance in the Sunrisers Hyderabad XI in the IPL. The left-hander provides the complete T20 package: a middle-order enforcer and an electric fielder, who can also chip in with his left-arm spin. He has shown flashes of brilliance in previous CPL seasons and in West Indies’ domestic games, and has earned high praise from the likes of Ian Bishop. He did show what he is capable of in the limited-overs series against Sri Lanka earlier this year, and now Allen’s got a good 12 months to prove why he should get on the flight to India next year.

Team news

Kane Williamson and Trent Boult had a great run in the IPL but have been rested for the T20Is. Devon Conway, whose exploits with the bat in the domestic circuit earned him a place in the national side, and pacer Kyle Jamieson could make their T20I debuts in the duo’s absence. Colin Munro’s Big Bash League commitments kept him out of the squad, so Tim Seifert is set to open with Martin Guptill.

New Zealand (possible): 1 Tim Seifert (wk), 2 Martin Guptill, 3 Glenn Phillips, 4 Devon Conway, 5 Ross Taylor, 6 James Neesham, 7 Mitchell Santner, 8 Tim Southee (c), 9 Kyle Jamieson, 10 Lockie Ferguson, 11 Ish Sodhi

The absence of Andre Russell and Dwayne Bravo has opened up two middle-order spots in West Indies’ XI. Fast bowling allrounder Kyle Mayers could get an opportunity, while Keemo Paul, who had opted out of the series against England, provides another right-arm quick option.

West Indies (possible): 1 Andre Fletcher, 2 Brandon King, 3 Nicholas Pooran (wk), 4 Rovman Powell/Kyle Mayers, 5 Shimron Hetmyer, 6 Kieron Pollard (c), 7 Sheldon Cottrell, 8 Hayden Walsh, 9 Fabian Allen, 10 Oshane Thomas/ Keemo Paul, 11 Kesrick Williams

Pitch and conditions

A run-feast can be expected, but teams defending have not had much luck in recent games at Eden Park. Six of the last seven matches have been won by the chasing team even when the totals have been in excess of 200.

There’s a slight chance of a shower in Auckland tomorrow.

Stats and Trivia

  • New Zealand have lost their last two bilateral T20I series at home – against India and England. If West Indies beat them here, it will be the first instance of them losing three consecutive T20I series as hosts.

  • Kieron Pollard‘s strike rate of 160.26 across all T20s since the start of 2019 is second-best among the 63 batsmen who have scored 1000-plus runs during this period. Only Russell (174.34) has a better strike rate. Pollard has scored 1944 runs at an average of 38.88 since January 2019.

  • Ross Taylor needs 91 more to complete 2000 runs in T20Is and join two other New Zealanders in the club: Martin Guptill (2536) and Brendon McCullum (2140).

Quotes

“I guess with the schedule we’ve got, we’re obviously looking forward to the back-to-back World Cups coming up. I guess there’s going to be a little bit of rotation with the Test boys coming and going. So, give me an opportunity in the future if the other guys aren’t available as well.”
Mitchell Santner on being given the opportunity to lead New Zealand in the third T20I

“We’ll continue being positive and playing our brand of cricket. It’s sometimes tough – winning two T20 World Cups and ranking No. 9 in the world is kind of off-balance, but I believe we’ll get back up there in the rankings.”
Andre Fletcher believes West Indies’ T20I ranking doesn’t justify their achievements in the format



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WTC 2021-23 – Geoff Allardice

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The ICC’s acting CEO has said teams will continue to be ranked based on percentage of points contested

The shift to a ranking based on the percentage of points contested, which came about thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, will extend into the second (2021-23) edition of the World Test Championship, with one caveat. Instead of 120 points being available over each series, independent of the length of the series, every Test match will now carry an equal number of points. At the end of the WTC cycle, teams will be ranked based on the percentage of points accrued over all the matches they have played.

The above points system was revealed by Geoff Allardice, the ICC’s acting chief executive officer, during a media chat organised by the ICC on Monday. As a consequence of several series in the first cycle of the WTC being postponed due to the pandemic, the ICC altered the points system last November, deciding to rank teams based on the percentage of points won from the series they contested.



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Eng vs NZ 2021 – ‘Players have got to show desperation and earn the right to stay in the side’

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Graham Thorpe, England’s assistant coach, has called on his team’s young batters to prove their “desperation” to stay in the Test team, after New Zealand’s eight-wicket win at Edgbaston on Sunday completed their first series victory in this country since 1999, and England’s first loss on home soil in seven years.

Thorpe, who was a part of the England team that slumped to the bottom of the unofficial world rankings with their 2-1 series loss in 1999, said that he hoped this defeat would spur a similar quest for higher standards among the class of 2021, after he himself played a central role in the Nasser Hussain-led team that went on to win four series in a row in 2000-01, including their first against West Indies in 32 years.

But, Thorpe warned, while today’s selectors were far more tolerant of short-term failure than they were at the start of his own career in 1993, the management would need to see evidence of greater mental application than was the case in the past two Test matches. That was particularly the case in the second innings at Edgbaston, where England slumped to 76 for 6 and ultimately 122 all out.

“We have some younger players in our team who are still developing and we’re wanting them to improve,” Thorpe said. “But sometimes the intensity and the spotlight of Test cricket, when you’re up against a good team like New Zealand, just highlights how much of a challenge our players found their decision-making and the execution of shots.

“Whatever technique you have, the basics are still the same,” he added. “You have to get in, you have to be positive in your defence, leave the ball well outside off stump and play straight. These are the things that have applied to batting in Test match cricket for as long as it has been going.



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England vs India women’s Test 2021 – Harmanpreet Kaur: ‘We may not have much practice, but mentally we’re prepared’ | Cricket

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‘Because of the struggles of past Indian women’s cricketers, we have this opportunity’ – Harmanpreet Kaur


Harmanpreet Kaur believes that a lack of adequate game time in the longest format in the lead-up to India Women’s return to Test cricket after nearly seven years can be offset in some measure by cultivating a positive outlook and heeding advice received from Ajinkya Rahane.

“I’ve played only two red-ball matches [in international cricket]. As a batting group when we have a discussion… this time we got a chance to speak to Rahane as well,” Kaur, the India Test vice-captain, said of her “easy and friendly talk” with her male counterpart in Southampton, where both the Indian teams served a hard quarantine upon arriving in the UK on June 3. “He shared his knowledge with us as to how to approach batting in the longest format and how one should divide their innings into parts.

“We may not have much practice under our belt [going into the Test], but mentally [we are prepared]. We’ve discussed a lot of things so we prepare ourselves well for the match. Even in the nets, we’ve tried to be in a good frame of mind because when you are happy, other than thinking too much about your batting, you tend to play well.”

The women’s team arrived in Bristol on Monday for the one-off Test against hosts England that begins on Wednesday. The opening fixture of a seven-match multi-format assignment, the Test marks India’s first outing in the format since the one-off Test at home against South Africa in November 2014. On the domestic circuit, the last multi-day women’s competition – the Senior Women’s Inter-Zonal Three-Day Game – was held in March-April 2018, in Thiruvananthapuram.

Kaur admitted that inadequate preparedness heading into the tour wasn’t ideal, but welcomed the revival of Test cricket for her team.

“Whatever time we’ve got [since coming out of quarantine], we’ve tried to simulate match scenarios as much as possible and tried to keep ourselves in the best frame of mind,” Kaur said. “We didn’t get much time to prepare, or any practice games. Individually, it’s imperative to adapt to the situation.



“We’ve never tried tinkering too much with Shafali because she is a natural player, and if you try talking too much technique or game planning with her, she can get disturbed because she is only 17″


Harmanpreet Kaur is all for letting Shafali Verma develop her own way



“The surfaces are different to what we get in India. We’ve practised against the swinging ball in the nets. We have a further two days – today and tomorrow – to prepare ourselves better for the match, so I hope we’ll be able to do that well.

“It’s a totally different scenario [to playing with the white ball]. I know we didn’t even get any domestic games with the red ball. In the upcoming season and years we’ll get more red-ball cricket also, which is a very good sign for us.”

As with Tests in the Women’s Ashes, the Bristol Test will feature the use of the Kookaburra red ball (the Dukes ball is usually used in England), with England captain Heather Knight saying last week that “we’re going to be using a Kookaburra in this match because that’s what we’re going to be using in the Ashes and it’s no secret this Test match is a huge part of our preparation going into that Ashes series and that Ashes Test match away from home.”

Kaur said that in the practice sessions India have had so far, the Kookaburra didn’t pose much challenge.

“Dealing with a Kookaburra didn’t feel too different because the ball size and weight is roughly the same [as the white ball we use in limited-overs cricket]. The last time we played [a Test], we felt the red ball was a bit heavier than the white variant, which makes you rely on your timing more. But the Kookaburra white and red ball feels the same; just the colour is different. We felt good playing with it because when you’re in whites and you play with the red ball, it’s a totally different feeling.”

When asked about the likelihood of 17-year-old big-hitter Shafali Verma making her debut on Wednesday, Kaur stressed that it was important for the senior players and the team management to refrain from talking shop too much with the young batter.

“We’ve never tried tinkering too much with Shafali because she is a natural player, and if you try talking too much technique or game planning with her, she can get disturbed because she is only 17 years old,” Kaur said. “To burden her with too many thoughts isn’t the right thing.

“All of us try to create a good environment for her to be able to feel less pressured and be able to enjoy her cricket well. She was looking great in the nets, and I hope if she gets a chance to play she’ll do better.”

As regards Jhulan Goswami, the senior-most bowler in the Indian attack, Kaur was hopeful that the 38-year-old pacer would replicate in this Test the consistency and success that’s been a hallmark of her nearly two-decade-long international career.

“She is someone who always takes the lead whenever we’re on the field,” Kaur said. “She’s always [been] special for us because her quota [of overs] is [important]. She will always give us breakthroughs whenever we need. Not only her but all the bowlers are very important because in Test matches you need breakthroughs, and I think she will be fantastic in this match also.”

The tour of England is also returning head coach Ramesh Powar‘s first assignment since replacing WV Raman in the role last month. Kaur, who is also India’s T20I captain, said her interactions with Powar on the ongoing tour had been no different to those during his first stint in the position which ended with the 2018 T20 World Cup, following a high-profile controversy involving himself, ODI captain Mithali Raj, Kaur, T20I vice-captain Smriti Mandhana, and several members of the now-defunct Committee of Administrators that was overseeing the BCCI.

“My interactions with him have been the same [as before]. He is someone who’s involved in the game all the time and expects the same of the players. Whenever you speak to him, you feel like you’re in a match. He asks you to imagine yourself in a match situation and figure out how you would react to it.

“I get a lot of information speaking to him because he, too, has played a lot of cricket, including T20 cricket. So the experience is the same. Whatever we had done in 2018, we are repeating those things now as well.”

Annesha Ghosh is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @ghosh_annesha


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ESPN Sports Media Ltd.






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