England won the toss and chose to bowl first against New Zealand
Zak Crawley has been handed a Test debut for the second Test in Hamilton, with Ollie Pope taking over as wicketkeeper, after Jos Buttler failed to recover from the back strain that he suffered in the gym in the build-up to the match.
It will be Pope’s turn to embrace his new role before Crawley’s, after Joe Root won the toss and chose to bowl first. “There’s quite a lot of live grass and history suggests we’ll get the most out of it on the first day,” was Root’s reasoning, particularly as he has gone into the match with a five-man seam attack.
That is because Chris Woakes has been recalled to their ranks as an extra seamer in place of the spinner Jack Leach, who was out-bowled by his counterpart Mitchell Santner in the first Test, but who can still consider himself unlucky. His omission perhaps has something to do with the extra batting prowess that Woakes brings in Buttler’s absence – Leach’s Headingley heroics notwithstanding.
“We are still trying to find 20 wickets, and on a surface like this it’s a good opportunity to try something different,” said Root. “It’s pretty simple what we need to improve on, and now it’s about putting our heart and soul into these five days.”
For New Zealand, Daryl Mitchell makes his Test debut as a like-for-like replacement for the injured Colin de Grandhomme, who was a major factor in the first Test win, while Matt Henry has leapfrogged Lockie Ferguson into the starting XI after Trent Boult suffered a side strain.
The pitch, which had looked pretty green in the build-up to the Test, has mellowed to a more true-looking yellow surface, and there is the prospect of rain in the air in the afternoon
“There are a few unknowns,” said Kane Williamson, New Zealand’s captain. “It’s a pretty good surface, we’ll have to see how it handles.”
Crawley’s call-up was confirmed when he received his cap from his Kent team-mate Joe Denly shortly before the toss, and added a further sheen of disarray to England’s attempts to recover from last week’s thumping defeat in the first Test at Mount Maunganui.
Speaking on the eve of the match, England’s assistant coach had backed Crawley to succeed at Test level, having impressed the management with his application in the course of the tour, and with a century in his solitary warm-up outing of the tour.
“Technically he looks very strong,” Collingwood said. “He’s willing to learn all the time. He’s been brilliant in the conversations that we’ve had in the nets. He’s always questioning things and that’s what you want.
“He’s good fun, he’s a good athlete in the field as well, so he ticks a lot of the right boxes. He looks very good. But you never know until you get in the pressure of a Test match situation. The signs are really good, though.”
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