Rain curtails Stokes comeback preparations

New Zealand


New Zealand may have gained a small advantage over England before a ball has been bowled in the day-night Test at Eden Park after England’s one floodlit training session was washed out on Wednesday.

They had been due to train from around 6pm but were restricted to a kickabout on the outfield before being forced indoors. It meant they did not get a net in the evening under the lights that have been rigged up over the nets on Eden Park 2 and neither could they undertake any fielding drills. New Zealand had their evening practice session on Tuesday in fine weather and their day-time session on Wednesday was also uninterrupted.

England did play two days of pink-ball cricket in Hamilton last week but they would have been keen for a final tune-up before the first Test.

It also meant that Ben Stokes was denied another outdoor bowl ahead of his Test comeback, which follows a week where he has been nursing back stiffness following the one-day series. It was the second time in three days that rain had hampered Stokes after his solo net on Monday was also forced indoors. On that occasion he bowled five overs inside, but it is understood he did not bowl on Wednesday.

When Joe Root spoke before the scheduled training session he said he knew his XI but wouldn’t name it because he hadn’t told those not playing. Pressed on Stokes’ role he said he was confident of him playing a part with the ball, but hinted a final decision on how much could rest on the final training session so it remains to be seen if the rain has caused Root a headache.

“There’s still stuff that needs to come out of today to be very sure of that, but I’m quite happy that Ben will play a part within the game,” Root said.

England do come into this Test with more recent pink-ball Test action than New Zealand who have not played one since they faced Australia in the first of its kind in Adelaide in late 2015. England have faced West Indies and Australia in the last seven months.

“Having a Test outside of England with the pink ball will give us good preparation and a lot of the guys played in that,” Root said. “But New Zealand are at home and will know how the surface will play. We have to get accustomed to that as quickly as we can. If we get in front we need to drive that home.”

Both Root and Kane Williamson said it was important not to get too wound up on the pink-ball aspect of the match and remember the fundamentals.

“You don’t want to get ahead of yourself and how you want to operate,” Williamson said. “It’s a Test match, yes there’s some subtle differences, and over the past few pink-ball Test matches we have seen some trends, but I guess you play a Test match in England when it’s overcast and the lights are on and things happen differently, and there’s probably less talk about that, then about when that might happen with a pink ball.”

Root added: “The basics are there and proven to work across all three formats never mind day-night cricket with a pink ball. You know what you need to do, generally plans are similar to batsmen and with the bat it’s about making scores of 400-plus.”



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