Chris Silverwood will be delighted with how England are shaping up for his first Test match in charge against New Zealand next Wednesday.
They might have drawn their first warm-up match against a New Zealand XI in Whangarei this week, but there were some real signs of encouragement for England’s new head coach.
Silverwood talked up returning to a more patient, old-school approach to batting, so the performances of youngsters Dom Sibley and Zak Crawley were perfectly timed.
Both top-order batsmen made centuries before retiring to let others have a go and they will take enormous confidence from their first outings in an England shirt.
The quality of the bowling was not the strongest, the pitch looked flat and there weren’t many spectators in the crowd, but those factors were out of their control. Sibley and Crawley performed as well as you could have asked, putting on 154 runs in a partnership to show they deserved their call-ups.
Time in the middle is incredibly important for young batsmen and they will both be happy to have overcome their initial nerves. With England needing an opening partner for Rory Burns, it is Sibley who is first in line, but undoubtedly both players have put their hands up.
Joe Denly appeared as a substitute fielder on the second day of the warm-up at the Cobham Oval, which means he’s over his ankle injury and will likely make Kent team-mate Crawley wait for his debut.
Old school method
Sibley is a perfect fit for Silverwood, who has signalled he will move away from the attacking one-day style of batting that his predecessor, Trevor Bayliss, favoured.
The 24-year-old’s style may not be particularly easy on the eye but he has the skill set and temperament which could help them avoid the type of batting collapses we’ve seen far too regularly over the past two or three years.
I think the old-school method is the way forward: grind out hard runs, tire the bowlers, soften the ball and then allow the likes of Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler to play freely down the order.
With Sibley in form and Denly recovered from injury, the batting line-up for the first Test in Mount Maunganui looks settled. However, England appear to have a decision to make in the bowling department.
Woakes v Curran
Chris Woakes and Sam Curran took the new ball in this week’s warm-up, and with all-rounder Ben Stokes back bowling after a shoulder injury and Stuart Broad, Jofra Archer and Jack Leach the established bowlers in the squad it seems a straight choice between the two for the No8 spot.
Woakes is generally Mr Reliable: consistent with bat and ball. At his best, he is one of England’s most dangerous bowlers and played four of the five Ashes Tests this summer.
Curran is perhaps more exciting, and definitely more explosive with the bat, while his left-arm delivery offers valuable variation to an attack which would otherwise consist of four right-arm, over-the-wicket bowlers.
Competition for places is important in a squad and it is a good problem for Silverwood to have to ponder this week.
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