The Lord is ready for the right royal opportunity as Ben Stokes begins to rule England Ali Martin

There he promises that this week there will be great pomp and greatness in Lord’s if the preparations do something. With the Queen’s jubilee apparently behind us, the Union flags were flown on the ground, and sound tests the day before the throw – a deafening rendition of the national anthem via the radio system – point to an avalanche of red, white and blue.

But for those who have large heels to be able to afford a ticket or subscribe to Sky Sports, all of this will be secondary when players enter the field at 11 p.m. England versus New Zealand, reigning world champions, in five days at Home of Cricket? To make this a special accessory, a few embellishments should be required, even though the MCC was busy decorating the site and trying to overcome the grumbling about prices.

And of course, this is the first step on the English team’s new journey after 12 months of pain, when Ben Stokes started as captain and Brendon McCullum crossed the line as head coach. The pair barely knew each other before Rob Key, the new CEO, put them together, but they looked like cut-outs from a similar fabric. The messages they preach certainly mean a return to a simple, earthy cricket cricket truth, consisting in taking a test at a time that seems to have disappeared under the previous regime.

Being first on the Stokes-McCullum axis adds another layer of poetic narration, at least for those who are watching. Stokes may have spent the first 12 years of his life on the South Island, his late father Ged playing the Kiwi rugby league, while his mother Deborah and brother James took a 12,000-mile trip from Christchurch to watch in person, but any further sentiment will be kept under control.

Matthew Potts in Networks
Matthew Potts will make his test debut after an impressive start to the season with Durham. Photo: Paul Childs / Action Images / Reuters

“I’m very proud of where I came from, my heritage and my family and all that stuff,” Stokes said, looking relaxed at the first of several pre-match press conferences to come. “But you know, I’ve worn an English shirt more than 200 times.” So at the end of the day, it’s England versus New Zealand, and I’m English. As for any extra emotions, it would be the same if I did it against Australia.

It was, of course, Australia that set in motion the changes that led Stokes to the helm, beating Ashes 4-0 over the winter – followed by a sad 1-0 defeat in the Caribbean – ending Joe Root’s fight. five years in the leadership. Demonstrating an early departure from his predecessor by openly stating ticket prices, Stokes said he was not a fan of “resetting the red ball” but preferred to call it a “blank screen” for his players this week. whether they are old or new.

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He and McCullum opted for a similar palette as before and decided to name their last XI every day. People often wonder why a team would show opponents their cards before the throw, but in this case, where most of the party was well marked – including returns for Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad, plus the rise of Ollie Pope to No. 3 – it was simply a case to leave the only newcomer, Matthew Potts, to settle down.

Potts, a 23-year-old sailor from Sunderland who looks impressively fit and throws a heavy ball, started this summer with Durham as a freight train. Stokes was on the field in three of the six performances that have returned 35 goals so far, and it was the ability to beat the inaugural season of the season, plus the top seven in his career for 40 against Glamorgan, which convinced the new test captain that Potts was good to go.

Brendon McCullum attends a networking session.  The captains and head coaches of both parties in this series were born in New Zealand.
Brendon McCullum attends a networking session. The captains and head coaches of both parties in this series were born in New Zealand. Photo: Paul Childs / Action Images / Reuters

Stokes said, “One thing that really struck me about Potts was when he drove us to victory against Glamorgan. The fourth day appeared with a slightly stiff side, and someone in his situation, when the Test selection appeared around the corner, could only lean back and say, “No, I’ll take care of myself here.” But he didn’t, he ran in and won the match for Durham.

“It’s an approach that will take you to the next level and make you open your eyes that this child is ready.” He was phenomenal: he is an athlete and everything I expect from this team. “

Potts ahead of Craig Overton – with Jack Leach playing his first home test since 2019 – means a long tail, and with problems over the highest order perennial perennials, a lot comes to the experienced mushroom Root, Jonny Bairstow and Stokes about what looks like beige, areas.

EnglandCrawley, Lees, Pope, Root, Bairstow, Stokes (c), Foakes (wkt), Potts, Leach, Broad, Anderson.

New Zealand (possible)Latham, Young, Williamson (c), Conway, Mitchell, De Grandhomme, Blundell (wk), Jamieson, Southee, Henry, Patel.

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Quick guide

Teams for the first test


England Crawley, Lees, Pope, Root, Bairstow, Stokes (c), Foakes (wkt), Potts, Leach, Broad, Anderson.

New Zealand (possible) Latham, Young, Williamson (c), Conway, Mitchell, De Grandhomme, Blundell (wk), Jamieson, Southee, Henry, Patel.

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Root also adapts to life back in the ranks, but unlike many who have tried it before, this is a case where, after a personal golden 12 months, he tries to keep running from his bat. Stokes, who will not initially have an official deputy captain, intends to seek advice only when necessary.

Stokes said: “[Root] He will always offer support there, but he also said he doesn’t want to feel bothered. I told him the same thing: ‘Dude, focus on batting now, you don’t have all the extra responsibility on your shoulders. Don’t feel like you have to come to me, just focus on running. “

The New Zealand side they meet can be seen in one of two ways. Tourists have lost two pillars of their seventh due to the retirement of Ross Taylor and BJ Watling, while Henry Nicholls makes it third after covering Covid-19. Trent Boult’s late arrival from India, Kane Williamson struggles for form after elbow problems and, in addition to two home draw series against South Africa and Bangladesh, lost his last tied game against County Select XI last season.

But then it’s worth remembering that last summer, when the English heads got into the funk about rest and rotation, New Zealand made six changes in its 11th Edgbaston and still scored a huge victory and a 1-0 series. Will Young and Matt Henry, two of the architects, then stepped aside for the World Cup finals in the tests that followed, showing that they had an enviable deep ego-free team at their disposal.

This is one of the many features of kiwi that the hosts want to imitate without shame, as they say in Stokes’ words “to make England great again”. Whether or not this goal is achievable is largely unknown, but it begins with the bunting already in Lord’s.

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