Recent Match Report – England vs NZ XI 2022/23 Tour Match

England XI 465 (Brook 97, Lawrence 85, Root 77, Foakes 57) vs New Zealand XI

For a warm-up program that was beginning to look like an afterthought before it had even begun, England had the first major day’s cricket on this tour. The score of 465 came in 69.2 overs against a New Zealand line-up, with 55 fours and 17 sixes hammering home a mantra the hosts know all too well.

As New Zealand’s favorite son Brendon McCullum watched those under his care squeeze plenty of juice out of their only match day before the start of the first Test a week on Thursday, it was clear that the seemingly blasé approach to this the game was not moved to the field. There was no toss, with England having the chance to bat all over the first day before bowling all over the second day. There was no Ben Stokes either, with the captain opting to make his own preparations to provide an extra berth and give Ollie Pope another small dose of leadership. Only nine tourists were named before the 2pm kick-off.

Adding to the cuteness was the presence of New Zealand captain Tim Southee. He wore a white baseball cap, which suggested an incognito look at the opposition, but any whiff of espionage was nullified when Southee met McCullum before sitting down with Stokes and the England staff to discuss anything and everything. Better hidden was former New Zealand limited-overs batsman Anton Devcich in full England gear. The Hamilton native has given England a helping hand in training.

And although the game ended prematurely at 20:23 with 20.4 overs of 90 remaining, this was a creditable effort. Especially for Harry Brook, who led the way with an attacking 97, followed by 85 for Dan Lawrence, 77 for Joe Root and a comprehensive 57 from Ben Foakes.

Brook’s batting was the standout, with a quick pace at 7, notably during a five-over spell before tea in which he and Yorkshire team-mate Root scored 47. The pair combined for 115 in 16, 1 over for the fourth wicket, following starts from Ben Duckett, Zak Crawley and Pope who had taken England to 95 from 17 overs.

This was originally planned as a four-day affair, according to posters dotted around the ground, before being reduced to two to focus solely on the pink ball elements before the day-night opener at Mount Maunganui. That decision was finally made in Pakistan, a series that was also preceded by a two-day clash against the England Lions. In that case, the decision to cut a day short was taken after talks between the players at stumps on the second day.

The positive effect of this discussion was to give players more ownership of their individual games, particularly when they were offline. This includes rest. Brook, for example, opted out of a deal with SA20 franchise Joburg Super Kings to spend a bit more time at home following his man-of-the-series exploits in Pakistan.

“I made the decision with England to pull out of the new South Africa competition and that was massive for me,” Brook said. “I was meant to travel on 7 and I wasn’t ready to be completely honest, and I’m glad I pulled out in the end. This month has been massive, just to be able to spend some time with the family and relax and not actually touch a cricket bat has been good. Hopefully I can come back in full flow this year and dominate.”

Not that he’ll lack experience or currency. A £1.3m deal with Sunrisers Hyderabad for the upcoming IPL has just been completed. It’s a dream come true, even if he didn’t expect to do so much. “Every little bit helps,” he said with a wry smile.

“Last year was probably the best year of my life in terms of lifestyle and cricket and I loved every minute of it. To stand here saying I’m a World Cup winner is incredible and nobody can take that away from me. It was an amazing year.”

His work on Wednesday afternoon in Hamilton was far more aggressive than his three innings in six days in Bloemfontein and Kimberley in last week’s ODI series: 97 off 71 to 86 off 87. All four of his sixes during of ODIs came to the same knock of 80 in the second match. Today, five runs came in the 36th over after Brook had bowled the first wicket from Athiya Ashok. The first of those strikes – comfortably the longest of his nine – landed on Tristram Street which runs along the west side of the ground.

“To be honest, the way we play cricket minute by minute, it doesn’t really change,” Brook said, when asked about changing continents and colors of the ball in the space of a week. “I batted a lot slower for the 80 I got in South Africa than I did out there. We try to put pressure on the bowlers, try to hit them off point and keep the pressure on throughout.”

However, he admitted he put a degree of pressure on his head to score lively, which in turn meant his movements were a little off his own exacting standards. Even so, he impressed with his impressive ball, even beyond that which was devastating.

“I think I’ve gotten a little stronger, so I feel like I’m hitting the ball a little harder,” he said. “Whether that’s just because I’ve been given the freedom to come out and play in a positive way and start the game or I’ve just gotten stronger. I just feel like I’m hitting the ball a lot harder than I was before.”

It was hard not to sympathize with those chasing leather, especially given the heavy green hue of this XI. Ashok, for example, has only one first-class appearance to his credit for Auckland against Central Districts in October, although he took 5 for 108 in his only innings in that game. Even with the misfortune of being bowled here for 82 from nine overs, at least he came up with Root’s dismissal, albeit fortuitously caught behind leg, after a careless sweep.

By then Root had enjoyed himself, hitting the now-characteristic round over third man for the first of two sixes, sending a reminder to the watching Southee after the hard-hitting delivery of that shot in last summer’s Trent Bridge Test. By the time Lawrence had stuck in, the inferiority of the New Zealand attack shone through as the sun went down.

The game was at its most competitive when Kyle Jamieson had the ball in hand and 15 overs of sustained pressure throughout the day would have boosted Southee further than his final 3 for 65. Jamieson has not played international cricket since injured his back in the same Test in Nottingham, and has worked his way up to full fitness in limited-overs cricket.

After shaking off some rust on his return to the whites, he removed Duckett with a neat delivery that pulled the left-hander forward and slightly across to slot past Tom Bruce at second slip. The return in the final session took advantage of some extra juice with the headlights to lift Lawrence for another catch on Bruce at the rope, before Will Jacks turned inside-out to be caught at first slip this time.

New Zealand coach Gary Stead has not confirmed whether Jamieson will make his return in the first or second Test. The decision won’t be made in this outing alone, although given England’s mood and Trent Boult’s absence, perhaps it should.

Vithushan Ehantharajah is Associate Editor at ESPNcricinfo

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