England’s bowlers have been readying themselves for the first Test against New Zealand tomorrow knowing that they need to adopt a different approach to the one they use at home.
It sounds like the Bay Oval pitch could be a flat one and England, who are used to a Dukes ball, swing-friendly conditions and Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad leading the attack, have traditionally come unstuck in such a setting.
With a Kookaburra ball, no Anderson and a potentially placid pitch, head coach Chris Silverwood must have come up with a different plan of attack for his bowlers.
The most obvious method lies with Jofra Archer, who possesses the kind of extreme pace which can rush batsmen on any surface. After a much-needed period of rest he should be over any nagging injuries and be raring to go again.
However, England should know by now that he can’t bowl 96mph all the time. Silverwood and captain Joe Root need to talk to Archer, be clear on what they want and then come up with a strategy which ensures he is not over-bowled.
Archer’s ability is such that he can bowl within himself with the new ball and still reach around 87mph. If that’s the case he can keep some effort in reserve and then return later on and produce a spell like the one to Steve Smith in the second Ashes Test at Lord’s this summer.
Dale Steyn was the master at it for South Africa and, like him, Archer has the skill to generate reverse-swing with the older ball too.
The Kookaburra ball is very different to the Dukes he is used to. Rather than swinging until the 60th or 70th over, it can go soft after just five or 10. It can be hard work as it doesn’t react off the pitch in the same way either.
But as well as swinging it, Archer has a lethal bouncer and yorker, so he needs to avoid getting frustrated and use those weapons at the right times.
Of course others need to step up to help Archer out. If, as looks to be the case, Sam Curran plays ahead of Chris Woakes as the third seamer then he has a tough role on his hands.
As a left-armer, Curran is at his best when he’s swinging the ball back into right-handers and challenging the pads. But, as we saw on the tour of the Caribbean earlier this year, he can struggle on slow, docile wickets because he doesn’t have the pace of someone like Archer.
With Broad and Archer in the side, it’s unlikely he will get the new ball, so he will have to earn his stripes in the difficult overs. If he can impress then Root might throw the 21-year-old the second new ball after 80 overs.
Ben Stokes can share the workload, but really we don’t want him bowling long spells, so left-arm spinner Jack Leach needs to hold down an end and keep the run-rate down. Graeme Swann was brilliant at it in the first innings when the ball was doing nothing.
Overall it looks like an even match-up. New Zealand won the last Test series between the teams in 2017-18 and have the bowlers in Trent Boult and Lockie Ferguson to trouble England’s inexperienced batting line-up.
Hopefully England can take confidence from their summer and cash in on flatter pitches.
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