England unchanged for second New Zealand Test after ‘perfect game’

AUCKLAND (AFP): England named an unchanged team for the second and final Test against New Zealand in Wellington starting Friday, after captain Ben Stokes said they had played “the perfect game” to go 1-0 up in the series.

The tourists dominated the first Test in Mount Maunganui to win by 267 runs with 40-year-old fast bowler James Anderson claiming seven wickets.

The haul has seen him return to the top of the Test bowling world rankings for the sixth time in his career and the first time since 2018, deposing Australia captain Pat Cummins.

Stokes was not surprised Anderson had returned to the pinnacle after claiming match figures of 7-54 at the Bay Oval, forming part of a potent pace trio with Stuart Broad and Ollie Robinson.

“I don’t think he’ll be that fussed by it, to be honest. He’ll just keep doing his thing,” Stokes said on Thursday.

“I think, and a lot of guys in the dressing room do, that Jimmy has been certainly one of the best in the world for a long, long time.

“He’s someone I know I can throw the ball to when I need a wicket, so having someone like him along with Broady and Robbo is a real treat to be able to captain at the moment.”

Stokes said consideration had been given to resting one or more of his front-line seamers for the Basin Reserve contest but all three informed him on Thursday they felt fresh and ready to go.

– ‘Tough sessions’ –

He hinted the trio may have been motivated by the grass-laden nature of the pitch, which appears to hold the promise of sideways movement.

“It is a fine line between picking your strongest 11 but then also making sure your bowlers are a hundred percent ready,” Stokes said.

“It was pretty easy to name the team, once they gave the all-clear they were all good to go.”

Last week’s win was England’s 10th from 11 Tests under Stokes, and England’s first on New Zealand soil in 15 years.

Stokes was proud his team achieved it by adhering to a game plan that involved piling pressure on New Zealand’s top order when they batted in seam-friendly conditions under lights.

“When we feel like it’s time to put the other team under pressure, that’s what we try and do and we were able to do that,” Stokes said.

“I think we played near enough the perfect game, considering it was a day-night Test match.”

A draw or win in Wellington would subject New Zealand to their first home series defeat in six years.

Black Caps skipper Tim Southee hopes a forecast for rain on each of the first two days proves inaccurate, believing his team have the pedigree to square the series.

They have fashioned a strong record at the Basin Reserve, having notched seven wins and just two losses from 14 Tests there over the last decade.

“We know these conditions reasonably well and having won a few series and a lot of games in that time, I guess that’s where home advantage comes into it,” he said.

“England, strategically, played it beautifully last week and we had a couple of tough sessions under lights.

“But we’re now moving forward into a traditional Test match, you can’t dwell on what happened.”

Southee confirmed seamer Matt Henry would play after missing the first Test to attend the birth of his child but wouldn’t divulge who will make way.

New Zealand (from): Tom Latham, Devon Conway, Kane Williamson, Henry Nicholls, Will Young, Daryl Mitchell, Tom Blundell, Michael Bracewell, Scott Kuggeleijn, Tim Southee (capt), Matt Henry, Neil Wagner, Blair Tickner

England: Zak Crawley, Ben Duckett, Ollie Pope, Joe Root, Harry Brook, Ben Stokes (capt), Ben Foakes, Ollie Robinson, Stuart Broad, Jack Leach, Jimmy Anderson

Tickner eager to beat England to cheer cyclone victims

New Zealand fast bowler Blair Tickner wants to bring some cheer to the victims of Cyclone Gabrielle by helping the Black Caps win the second Test against England, starting Friday.

Tickner joined the clean-up operation in his devastated home region still reeling from the deadly floodwaters.

Tickner, 29, made his debut in New Zealand’s 267-run defeat against England in the first Test, before being released for two days this week to help his father, whose home was wrecked by the cyclone which claimed 11 lives.

Tickner said he will give his all to beat England and square the two-match series before heading home again to offer more help.

“I definitely want to get my first win in Test match cricket and really want to do it for the people of Hawke’s Bay,” Tickner told reporters.

Floodwaters left thousands without power, marooned communities and damaged properties, especially in the eastern region of Hawke’s Bay, where Tickner’s dad John lives.

“My father’s house has been fully destroyed. It was good to get back, help them out,” said an emotional Tickner.

“It’s just hard times for the whole region so we helped out neighbours and whoever we could.

“It’s been tough, it’s really tough at the moment, but Hawke’s Bay is staying strong.

“Having grown up there, it’s hard to talk about,” he said, choking back tears.

“Test cricket doesn’t feel hard after seeing stock dead on the side of the road and grown men crying about their homes with their lives flipped upside down.

“Cricket is nothing compared to what people are going through at the moment.”

Tickner took 4-127 against England on his New Zealand debut despite knowing his home region had been ravaged.

He was grateful that his father was briefly in the Mount Maunganui crowd to see his Test debut.

“You dream about your Test debut forever and expect your family to be there, my dad was good enough to come through, taking generators down to Hawke’s Bay to help people,” Tickner added.

“He just stopped in for about half an hour, luckily saw my first Test wicket and then went on to a seven-hour drive home to help everyone.”

New Zealand Cricket has said the first one-day international against Sri Lanka at Auckland’s Eden Park on March 25 will be a fundraiser for the cyclone’s victims.

“Hopefully we can have a sellout and all that money goes to them,” Tickner said.

“It’s been hard for everyone throughout the country.”