England v New Zealand: Captain Ben Stokes wipes slate clean as new Test era gets underway at Lord’s
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Stokes will lead his country out against New Zealand having inherited the job from Yorkshire’s Joe Root and hopes to make an instant impact on a side who have won just once in their last 17 games. The all-rounder has made it clear this is a fresh start for all concerned.
“There’s been a lot of talk about a ‘reset’, which is a word I don’t like,” he said. “I just see it as a completely blank canvas. I just want everyone to feel free under my captaincy.
“This is our time and we are going to dictate how things go forward. Everyone is starting fresh, whether it’s Matty Potts or James Anderson and Stuart Broad.”
Stokes’s Durham team-mate Matthew Potts has been handed his Test debut after being chosen ahead of Craig Overton, with the skipper in no doubt that his county colleague is ready after taking 35 wickets in six matches this season. But there was no place for Yorkshire’s Harry Brook, despite his blistering start to the season which has left him with an average of just over 125 across all formats.
“Pottsy has been outstanding in the games I’ve played,” added Stokes. “It’s not been all plain sailing for bowlers and he’s created things out of nowhere.
Stokes’s first game in charge is unlikely to be taking place in front of the usual packed crowd at the home of cricket, with around 16,000 tickets still available 24 hours out from the start of the match. Only around 750 of those are for day one, but over 9,000 remain unsold for Sunday’s play.
Stokes did not shy away from the cost of living debate when asked about the prospect of gaps in the stands.
“The ticket prices is something that I think is going to have to be looked at properly, because what is cricket without its fans? What is sport without its fans?” he said. “We want to be attracting people to come and watch us because of the cricket that we play and how successful we are.”
“But I guess you have to look at how much it’s going to cost someone to get into the ground. I don’t set the prices but I think it does need to be looked at.”
Trent Boult’s last-minute arrival from the Indian Premier League means he may have to sacrifice an appearance at Lord’s, but New Zealand captain Kane Williamson insists his side are full of Test match “purists”.
Boult went all the way to the IPL final with Rajasthan Royals so only touched down in England two days before the start of the series.
That left him a solitary training session to prove his fitness for a five-day game and get reacquainted with the red ball, and he may instead have to wait until next week’s visit to Trent Bridge.
“He’s just arrived but he’s keen as,” Williamson said of the left-arm quick. “There’s a number of things to consider. Trent is a world-class player but we’ve got great variety in our bowling attack. It’s working out who is ready to go. Most are, obviously Trent is one to look at.”
Williamson is not short of bowling options, with Tim Southee, Kyle Jamieson, Neil Wagner and Matt Henry all raring to go, and he is adamant that a Black Caps side who were crowned inaugural World Test champions at the Ageas Bowl last summer remain fiercely committed to the five-day format.
“Our Test team are so passionate about the format. There does seem to be real movement within cricket, but you certainly still see the purists get a real kick out of red-ball cricket, and our team is full of those sorts of people,” he said.
“These guys are so passionate about Test cricket - we’re a nation that probably doesn’t play quite as much as England, Australia and India and probably play slightly shorter series. So for us there is a lot of excitement to be playing Test cricket, especially here at Lord’s.
“Becoming Test champions was an amazing achievement and a proud thing for New Zealand cricket. But your motivation is to try and move the team forward.”