The Bay Oval makes its Test debut on Thursday, 21 November, hosting the latest chapter in an exciting New Zealand-England rivalry.
New Zealand v England, 1st Test
Bay Oval, Tauranga
Thursday, 21 November; 11:00am local, 10:00pm (-1) GMT
The last time England played red-ball cricket in New Zealand, they lost the series 1-0, after being bundled out for an embarrassing 58 in the first Test in Auckland. While their fortunes in Tests since have been up and down, there is optimism that they can turn a corner under new coach Chris Silverwood and begin an era of consistency in the longest format.
England's challenge has been to settle on a balanced squad – and they aren't quite there yet. In their latest combination, they are set to have debutant Dom Sibley opening the batting with Rory Burns, with Joe Denly at No.3 and captain Joe Root returning to his favoured No.4 spot. Jos Buttler has been entrusted with the gloves, while Sam Curran was chosen over Chris Woakes for the seam-bowling all-rounder's spot behind Ben Stokes. Stuart Broad will lead the bowling group, while Jofra Archer plays his first Test with the Kookaburra.
New Zealand were expected to fight Archer's fire with some pace of their own, through Lockie Ferguson, but captain Kane Williamson revealed on the eve of the game that that contest would have to wait; both Ferguson and spinner Todd Astle have been released from the squad.
Even without that extra pace, New Zealand will present a formidable challenge. Unlike England, they have a well-settled Test squad, with a set of consistent performers who have taken them to No.2 on the MRF Tyres ICC Test Team Rankings. Apart from Williamson (No.3), Henry Nicholls (No.6) and Tom Latham (No.8) are in the top 10 of the batting charts, while Trent Boult (No.6) and Neil Wagner (No.8) have been their bowling mainstays. Additionally, Tim Southee is at No.9 on the all-rounder charts. Little surprise then that they have lost just one of their last nine series.
Remember the last time
The two Tests follow a high-scoring five-match T20I series, which England clinched in the final game after another Super Over win, to go with the thrilling one between the teams in the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup final a few months ago. The last time the teams met in a Test was back in 2018, in Christchurch, when a brilliant rearguard effort from Ish Sodhi, Colin de Grandhomme and Wagner rescued the hosts from 162/6, denying England a chance to draw the series.
What they said
Kane Williamson, New Zealand captain: "Culturally, socially, there are a lot of similarities between the Kiwis and the English ... A number of guys have played county and franchise cricket. A few friendships have been built through that. When Joe [Root] was around at Yorkshire, we would chew the fat and discuss cricket. I'd ask 'How do I become as good as you, Joe?' and try to pick his brains. I loved my time over in county cricket."
Joe Root, England captain: “We have to be prepared to play some attritional cricket at times. We have to try to bat longer... it would be nice to get used to batting for 120 overs more regularly, especially in the first innings.”
Good weather is expected. It's likely to be sunny through the day, with highs of 19°. The pitch appears to be a flat track, good for batting.