New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson described playing England in their own backyard as a ‘fierce challenge’ and asserted that the key for the Kiwis will be to adapt and adjust to the conditions as quickly as possible. Williamson confirmed that Devon Conway will be making his Test debut on Wednesday.
Unlike India or Australia, New Zealand are a side that do not play away from home often and quite astonishingly, the Blackcaps last toured England six years ago, back in 2015. The Kiwis, back then, walked away with a 1-1 draw in the series but a lot has changed since then. Since the last time New Zealand toured England, the Three Lions have not lost a single series at home and this includes impressive wins against all of India, Australia and South Africa. New Zealand, too, have been poor travelers and have only managed to win one of their last five away Tests since 2019.
Thus, in many ways, the visitors, despite being the second ranked team in the world, would need to overcome the odds to beat England, and speaking ahead of the first Test at Lord’s, skipper Kane Williamson insisted that his side will have to adapt to the conditions as quickly as possible in order to compete with the hosts.
"We know how tough it is over here and how clinical England are, certainly in their own conditions. The challenge is a fierce one,” Williamson said on Tuesday.
"It's important that we focus on the cricket we want to play, but also try and improve and adjust as quickly as possible. Any time you get the opportunity to play here - the home of cricket - it's a really special thing. For a few guys it's their first time at Lord's, they're really soaking it up and it'll be great to have crowds back as well."
White-ball matches are rarely used as a build-up for Tests but such was the extent of the heartbreak the Kiwis endured the last time they played at Lord’s - the 2019 World Cup Final - that it has left many wondering if Williamson and his men have entered English shores with vengeance in their mind. Wlliamson, though, played down the suggestion and claimed that he and his teammates feel privileged to have been a part of one of the greatest games in cricket history.
"There's certainly no thought of that, of owing anybody anything. This is a different side and there's been some time since that day, so the focus is different - it's the cricket we want to play as a Test side,” Williamson said.
"We were both part of a fantastic game of cricket that was largely decided by things outside of both of our teams' control. There was some fine print and a few other bits and pieces that went on in the game.
"It was a special game to be part of, even though it was emotional to a certain extent, and a game that'll be remembered fondly, whether you were on the wrong side or the right side - that's part and parcel of sport. The guys are really excited to be back here, it's always a pleasure to have the opportunity to play at Lord's and we know the challenge that lies ahead.”
The Blackcaps’ squad for the England Tests includes plenty of fresh faces, and Williamson confirmed that Wellington’s Devon Conway will be making his much-awaited Test debut on Wednesday. The New Zealand skipper, however, claimed that the Kiwis will finalize the starting XI only after taking a good look at the wicket before the start of play.
“A really exciting opportunity for Devon, being involved with the team over the last year in the white ball formats and gone extremely well. He’s an experienced player as well who’s played a lot of first-class cricket and batted in all the different positions and gets his opportunity to make his debut at the home of cricket.
“We’ve got a couple of allrounders, de Grandhomme and Santner, and in recent games at home we’ve opted for extra seamers so it’s just trying to find that balance after assessing the pitch. The weather has taken a pretty quick turn from cold and wet to pretty hot and dry so we’ll wait and see.”
Five months ago New Zealand became the number one Test side in the world - they have since been dethroned by India - and there have been suggestions that this current outfit under Williamson is the greatest Kiwi side of all time. However, when asked if he also echoed the same sentiment, Williamson downplayed the suggestion and asserted that focusing on the future is more important than gloating over the past.
“I think we’ve seen a lot of improvement in the side and it’s come over a long period of time. But I guess having been a part of the growth has been really enjoyable. It’s very difficult to stop for a moment of time and give a judgement like that when you know that the next day there is another challenge to address. And there’s always room to improve. Here we are now, two tough challenges - first against England and then India, so we’re very realistic where our focus needs to be. It’s certainly not looking backwards.”