New Zealand XI v England XI

England begin their only red ball warmup match of the tour of New Zealand later today when they play a New Zealand XI at Queenstown. England look fairly settled in selection and their focus in the match will presumably to get some time in the middle for the players who were not part of the pyjama leg of the tour and probably to make sure Stuart Broad is fit enough to bowl multiple spells. I suspect then that they will play an XI close to the one that will feature in the first Test, with perhaps Jonny Baristow for Ian Bell and Graham Onions for Steven Finn.

The fact that England are only having one warmup and look pretty settled means that there isn’t much of a chance for Bairstow and Onions to push for a spot, however. This is harsh on both; Bairstow has not done much worse than Root and certainly the declarations of Root being the reincarnation of Len Hutton that appeared several days ago are rather premature. Bairstow’s highest score is actually larger than Root’s and against better bowling as well. Root has done very well, but only has two Test innings to his name. I don’t doubt that England will have him pencilled in for the number six spot in Dunedin, but it is far too early to guarantee him a long term spot with both Bairstow and James Taylor having also done well. Both can count themselves unlucky that they won’t have much (or in Taylor’s case any) chance to make their case ahead of the Tests.

Onions is also a bit unlucky. New Zealand conditions will suit him rather better than those of India and with question marks still over Broad’s fitness Onions would have liked a decent chance to show that he should be preferred. Even if Broad is fit, however, Onions could be pushing for a fourth seamer spot if England decide to go that route in one or more of the Tests. I would be very surprised if they did, but with the weaknesses the New Zealand batsmen have shown against seam movement it is not entirely out of the question. It is something England will want to at least keep in mind and only having one warmup may hurt them as it may not give a chance to properly asses whether Onions is an option for a four seamer attack.

New Zealand have picked a relatively strong XI for the warmup including a handful of players who will be pushing for a spot in the XI for the first Test. In particular there is one opening spot and one bowling spot which are at least partly up for grabs. Hopefully then this will make for a reasonably competitive match from which both sides can draw actual conclusions about their sides. It’s too bad that there isn’t another, but that does at least mean that it won’t be long until the start of the first Test!

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