Hamilton, Nov 28 : After a hard-fought encounter in the series opener, New Zealand and England get ready for the final Test, which starts on Friday at Seddon Park here.
New Zealand go into the second Test in Hamilton with a 1-0 lead and heaps of confidence. They produced exceptional performances in all the facets of the game at Mount Maunganui. However, they suffered two major blows to their pace attack: Trent Boult and all-rounder Colin de Grandhomme have been ruled out of the second Test with injuries. De Grandhomme's absence has opened a door of opportunity for Northern Districts all-rounder Daryl Mitchell, who is set to make his maiden Test appearance, while paceman Matt Henry is likely to fill Boult's place.
England have an injury concern of their own: Jos Buttler is in doubt to play after he tweaked his back at the gym; Root confirmed that Ollie Pope will keep wickets if Buttler is unavailable, an ICC report on Thursday said. They will also be without head coach Chris Silverwood after the second day, as he is scheduled to fly back home early following a family bereavement. Assistant coaches Graham Thorpe and Paul Collingwood are set to step up.
The visitors' new-look side still has a lot of unanswered questions. Root's batting average as captain dropped below 40 after he registered scores of 2 and 11 in the Bay Oval Test. The second Test is his chance to find a balance between his batting and his leadership duties. The question of Jofra Archer, about how to make the best use of the paceman's talent, is also an unanswered one for Root. Archer bowled the most number of overs among pacers. In 42 overs, he gave away 107 runs and could only manage one wicket.
New Zealand fought to seal victory by an innings and 65 runs and take a 1-0 lead in the two-match series. Batting first, Root's men posted a good first-innings total of 353. Opener Rory Burns (52) and No.3 Joe Denly (74) provided their side a solid start, before Ben Stokes' brilliant 91 guided England.
In reply, New Zealand lost their openers early, but skipper Kane Williamson made a crucial fifty before BJ Watling and Mitchell Santner posted a record partnership. While Watling (205) brought up his Test double ton, becoming the first New Zealand wicket-keeper batsman to achieve the feat, Santner (126) hit his maiden Test century. On day five, Neil Wagner picked up five wickets and despite late resistance from England, they were bowled out for 197.
New Zealand captain Kane Williamson said, "This is certainly right up there in terms of a tough, grinding Test victory. A lot was taken out of both teams in this Test. It was a really tough effort for long periods. But we have that squad of 15 and all the guys will meet up in Hamilton and we will have to assess the fitness of everybody." England captain Joe Root said, "I think we missed an opportunity if we are being brutally honest. Two of their guys really made big contributions. We had some guys getting in but a score of 450 would have been nice. I think we did a lot of good stuff but we need to do it for longer. We need to be honest with ourselves, need to work hard and trust ourselves." (UNI)