The circumstances this week are very different: New Zealand are only building up to the main event, the inaugural World Test Championship final against India, which starts on June 18, while Joe Root is likely to be England’s lone representative of the 50-over squad from 2019, in the absence of their IPL returnees and the injured Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer. Even still, with fans returning to an England home international for the first time since the end of that summer, that Super Over is unlikely to go unmentioned.
While New Zealand’s primary focus will be to ensure they have a fit, in-form squad to pick from in two weeks’ time, there is also an opportunity to win in England for the first time this century. The gunslinging series in 2015 finished in a 1-1 draw despite large periods of dominance, and their away record in Tests has been patchy in the last five years, with one series win (against Pakistan in the UAE) in their last five tours.
Williamson’s Test record in England – an average of 30.87 across eight innings – jars with his dominance elsewhere and his composure against the moving ball. He comes into the series on the back of three hundreds (including two doubles) in his four Test knocks in New Zealand’s home summer. If he can lead New Zealand to a rare away win and then the WTC trophy, this will be a legacy-defining month.
England: LLLWW (last five completed matches, most recent first)
New Zealand: WWWWW
In the spotlight
In the absence of Stokes and Jos Buttler, Ollie Pope is the most experienced player in England’s engine room from Nos. 5-8, his 17 caps making him a relative veteran. He has started the season well, with 245 and 131 against Leicestershire and Hampshire respectively, but had his technique dissected by Sky’s pundits during the televised fixture against Middlesex, in particular his off-stump guard. Pope’s logic is that it allows him to leave anything outside off and score heavily off his pads, but it does leave him vulnerable to the nip-backer, especially early on. With his Test average hovering just above 30 after a tough tour to India, England need him to start delivering on his immense potential.
Test cricket is an easy game if your name is Kyle Jamieson. His record so far is six caps, six wins, 36 wickets and an average of 13.27, but this is set to be his first appearance outside of New Zealand, and England will have watched hours of footage from his career to date to work out how to go about playing him. Pitches at Lord’s are rarely particularly springy, but at 6ft 8in, he is unlikely to have too many problems finding bounce. His immaculate control of line is one of his biggest assets, which will be tested by the ground’s famous slope and the novelty of the Dukes ball. In Boult’s absence, he may open the bowling for the first time in his career.
The lack of a genuine allrounder in the squad means that England’s top seven effectively picks itself, with Haseeb Hameed and Sam Billings mainly with the squad as cover, while Robinson looks likely to get the nod ahead of Craig Overton at No. 8. Jack Leach’s success in the holding role for Somerset at Lord’s earlier this summer and the upturn in the weather means Root will probably resist the option of an all-seam attack, though he left open the possibility on Thursday, admitting he had “gained a little bit more confidence in myself” as a spin option on the back of the India tour. It is possible that either Olly Stone or Mark Wood could play ahead of Leach to offer extra pace, or instead of Robinson if England are willing to risk a particularly long tail. Root himself took a blow on his hand in the nets on Monday, but has confirmed he is fully fit.
England (possible): 1 Rory Burns, 2 Dom Sibley, 3 Zak Crawley, 4 Joe Root (capt), 5 Ollie Pope, 6 Dan Lawrence, 7 James Bracey (wk), 8 Ollie Robinson, 9 Jack Leach, 10 Stuart Broad, 11 James Anderson
New Zealand (possible): 1 Tom Latham, 2 Devon Conway, 3 Kane Williamson (capt), 4 Ross Taylor, 5 Henry Nicholls, 6 BJ Watling (wk), 7 Colin de Grandhomme/Daryl Mitchell, 8 Mitchell Santner/Matt Henry, 9 Kyle Jamieson, 10 Tim Southee, 11 Neil Wagner
Pitch and conditions
Stats and trivia
“I’m not massively used to batting down the order but I’m confident I’ll jump into that. When it comes to batting, I like to be gritty and get into a battle. I’m not afraid to put in those hard yards and go through tough spells.”
James Bracey, who bats at No. 3 in county cricket, is prepared for a new role in the lower-middle order
“It was emotional to a certain extent to think back about being involved in that match and some of the controversies that surrounded it and the drama and all these sorts of things that come with tournament cricket and some of the fine margins. The guys are really excited to be back here: it is always a pleasure to have the opportunity to play at Lord’s”
Kane Williamson on New Zealand’s return to the scene of the 2019 World Cup final
Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98