England’s Broad returns for first Test against New Zealand

AUCKLAND (AFP): England recalled seam bowler Stuart Broad on Wednesday for this week’s first Test against New Zealand in Mount Maunganui, reuniting his strike partnership with veteran Jimmy Anderson.

Broad, who has 566 Test wickets, will lead the attack alongside 40-year-old Anderson, England’s all-time leading bowler with 675 dismissals and seamer Ollie Robinson.

Skipper and all-rounder Ben Stokes, who will lead England in the country of his birth for the first time, will be the fourth seam option with spinner Jack Leach completing the bowling attack for the day-night encounter beginning Thursday.

The 36-year-old Broad missed the 3-0 Test series win over Pakistan in December following the birth of his child.

The first match of the two-Test series is expected to begin on time despite a national state of emergency in New Zealand caused by Cyclone Gabrielle.

But the storm has meant The Bay Oval wicket has remained covered for much of the build-up, something that normally favours the side bowling first, however Stokes was uncertain how it would play.

“Watching Test matches in New Zealand in the past, I don’t think you can look too much into the wickets here when they’re green like that,” he said.

“The two-day practice game we played (last week in Hamilton), the wicket was very green, had a lot of grass on it, and it played very, very true.

– ‘Hope I lose the toss’ –

“So I don’t know how much effect it’ll have really -– I just hope I lose the toss,” he joked.

Stokes said the team had managed to practise under the cover of a marquee, despite the weather.

“We have been lucky with the tent up here, we have been able to train but the cyclone hasn’t helped preparations,” Stokes told reporters.

He admitted it had been tough deciding which bowlers to leave out with pacemen Olly Stone and Matthew Potts also in the squad.

“We have the experience of Jimmy (Anderson) and Broady (Broad) you always want a bit of X-factor in your third seamer, which we have.

“We have a great crop of fast bowlers coming through England at the moment, which is an exciting position to be in.”

England come in as favourites having won nine of their last 10 Tests, including three home wins against New Zealand last year.

Stokes was surprised his side would not have to face left-arm pace bowler Trent Boult, who was released from his New Zealand contract last year to play in Australia.

“Any team without Trent Boult gives you a little bit of hope. He’s a quality performer but that’s a New Zealand issue, not ours,” Stokes said.

The England squad have been in New Zealand for several weeks and Stokes said the series can’t start soon enough.

“I wish the game was today, it feels like we have been here ages,” he said.

“The second game comes thick and fast after the first, so the team is raring to get going.”

The second and final Test begins in Wellington on February 24.

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

Kiwi paceman Tickner to make debut

New Zealand captain Tim Southee said Wednesday that pace bowler Blair Tickner would make his debut in the first Test against England.

The 29-year-old Tickner, who has played nine one-day internationals and made 17 Twenty20 appearances for New Zealand, will win his first Test cap Thursday in the day-night match at Mount Maunganui.

“He’s been around the group for a while now and had a taste in one-day and T20 cricket, so it’s exciting for him,” Southee told reporters.

Southee, captaining New Zealand at home for the first time since taking over from Kane Williamson, said he would finalise the rest of his team before Thursday’s toss.

“We’ll wait and see how the wicket shapes up tomorrow,” Southee said.

Ground staff at the Bay Oval have been working hard to get the pitch ready following heavy rainfall caused by Cyclone Gabrielle.

A state of emergency is still in effect across New Zealand as the mopping up begins after widespread flooding and both teams trained this week under a marquee.

“It’s been an unusual build-up with the weather, but we have been fortunate with the marquee and some pretty good facilities,” Southee added.

“A cyclone two days before a Test match is unusual but the groundsmen are reasonably happy with how the surface is.”

Southee’s attack been weakened for the first Test of the two-match series by the loss of Kyle Jamieson, ruled out with a stress fracture of the back, and Matt Henry, who is expecting his first child.

The captain explained why New Zealand had opted against recalling veteran left-arm pace bowler Trent Boult, who released from his central contract last year to play in Australia.

“Trent made his decision in handing back his contract, so New Zealand Cricket has made the decision to back the guys who are playing domestic cricket here,” said Southee.

“It will be interesting to see how the decision pans out and we have to box on.”