England are currently touring New Zealand and after two days of the first test match (being played at the Bay Oval in Mount Maunganui), the game is finely poised, with England probably being slightly ahead.
There Were Calls to Drop Tim Southee
When it came to naming the team to face England in the first of two tests, there were many people calling for Tim Southee, who has been a fantastic servant to New Zealand cricket over the years, to be dropped for Lockie Ferguson.
It was expected that the pitch at the Bay Oval will offer bounce and pace, which is something that would suit Ferguson a lot more than it would Southee. With Trent Boult being the leader of the bowling attack, either Southee or Neil Wagner would have to miss out in order to include Ferguson.
However, after much deliberation, Gary Stead and Kane Williamson decided to stick with Boult, Southee, and Wagner. Ferguson was sent back to his club to compete in a one-day competition.
Southee Justifies His Inclusion in the Team
At the start of Day 2, Ben Stokes and Ollie Pope were scoring runs for fun, threatening to take the game beyond the reach of New Zealand. The home side needed one of their bowlers to step up and drag them back into contention, and the bowler that decided to do that was Southee.
Stokes was looking good for another century, but he tried to smack Southee out of the park and was superbly caught by Ross Taylor in the slip cordon. In his next over, he forced Pope into playing a poor shot, and then dismissed Sam Curran LBW with his very next ball. Unfortunately, he couldn’t pick up a well-deserved hat-trick. That was sad cause I remembered that I gave tips to bet on him this time.
England than slipped to 353 all out, with Southee finishing with figures of 4 wickets for 88 runs from the 32 overs that he bowled.
They Will Need Him to be at His Best Again in the Second Innings
New Zealand finished Day 2 on 144/4, still 209 runs behind England. With signs of the pitch already misbehaving, it is important that the Kiwis get as close to England’s total as they can. A first innings lead of 100 could be too much to overturn on such a wicket.
Whatever New Zealand finish with in their first innings, Kane Williamson will be hoping that Southee bowls at his best again when England are batting in their second innings. Any sort of lead above 250, will be tricky to chase down on a fourth innings wicket that will see invariable bounce.