NZ coach: Aggressive England changing face of test cricket
KARACHI, Pakistan (AP) — New Zealand coach Gary Stead believes England’s attacking brand of cricket is redefining the test format of the game as the Black Caps prepare for their two-test series in Pakistan.
“There’s no doubt that they (England) are changing the face of test cricket a little bit,” Stead said Friday after his team’s first training session at the National Stadium in the southern port city of Karachi. “All teams will be thinking a little bit around how England play and the successes that they’ve had in this past year.”
Led by captain Ben Stokes and coach Brendon McCullum, England swept Pakistan 3-0 this month with its “bazball” aggressive cricket in its first tour to the country after 17 years.
It was England’s ninth win in the last 10 test matches since Stokes replaced Joe Root and McCullum was installed as coach.
“That’s exciting for them and I think it’s exciting for test cricket,” Stead said. “Whilst they did win 3-0 (against Pakistan) though, it was still a very, very tight series throughout and I expect our series here also to be the same.”
England’s fearless approach of scoring at a fast pace saw the team racking up a record 506-4 on the opening day of the first test. England wrapped up the series with an emphatic eight-wicket win at Karachi inside four days.
“There’s no doubt T20 cricket has sped up scoring overall,” Stead said. “Now most cricketers … have the ability to score at a much faster rate. For me, it’s still about finding your tempo, your style of play that suits your players the best.”
England’s batters, led by Harry Brook’s three centuries in three tests, played a key role in the team’s clean sweep in which Pakistan legspinners Abrar Ahmed and Zahid Mahmood shared 29 wickets between them.
Stead expects spin to play a prominent role from Monday when the first test against New Zealand starts.
“Spin will take a bigger part than what we’re probably used to normally,” Stead said.
New Zealand has given Ish Sodhi a test recall after four years and Stead hopes the legspinner will come good on slow turning wickets at Karachi and Multan.
Leftarm spinner Ajaz Patel, who grabbed all 10 wickets in a test innings against India in 2021, and offspinner Michael Bracewell are the other slow bowling options.
“We picked our squad thinking that a legspinner will be important,” Stead said. “We’ve obviously seen Abrar and Mahmood bowling well for Pakistan in the recent test series, so that’s great.”
New Zealand aborted its tour to Pakistan last year because of security concerns just hours before the toss in the first ODI at Rawalpindi. This will be New Zealand’s first tour to Pakistan since 2003 when it played a limited-overs series.
Veteran fast bowler Tim Southee will be leading in test matches for the first time after Kane Williamson stepped down from the test captaincy. Williamson returns to lead the side in the three ODIs at Karachi after the test series.
“It’s a decision that Kane came to himself,” Stead said. “Over the time he’s realized that maybe just pulling back a little bit gives them the chance to really just focus on his batting. He’ll still be a great leader in that group. It’s probably a little bit different having a pace bowler as a captain, but Tim’s got a great cricketing brain.”
The Black Caps are without injured fast bowler Kyle Jamieson and Trent Boult, who is no longer a contracted player with New Zealand Cricket, and was not available for the Pakistan tour.
“Trent Boult is playing in the Big Bash (League) at the moment,” Stead said. “That’s the way the world is going a little bit. The options for players are numerous out there.”
The second test will be played at Multan from Jan. 3-7. Karachi will host the three ODIs Jan. 10-14.
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