Brendon McCullum and Ben Stokes backed to lift England with new era set to begin against New Zealand

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Brendon McCullum and Ben Stokes backed to lift England with new era set to begin against New Zealand
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Rob Key is confident that Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum will prove a winning combination as England’s new era begins at Lord’s tomorrow.

England confirmed their XI for the Test this morning and, as reported by Standard Sport yesterday, the Durham seamer Matt Potts makes his debut at the expense of Craig Overton.

Potts, 23, has never played a first-class match at Lord’s, but has enjoyed a sensational start to a breakout season, with 35 wickets in six matches.

In an attack missing eight capped fast bowlers due to injury, Potts joins England’s two most prolific wicket-takers, James Anderson and Stuart Broad, who return after their unceremonious dumping for the tour of the West Indies last month.

The batting order has not been overhauled since the series defeat in West Indies in March. Alex Lees and Zak Crawley open, with Ollie Pope coming in at No3 and Jonny Bairstow moving up to No5, between former captain Joe Root and new skipper Stokes. Ben Foakes remains wicketkeeper.

Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum lead England into a new era against New Zealand (PA)
Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum lead England into a new era against New Zealand (PA)

The batter to miss out is Harry Brook, the in-form youngster, and he could be released to play for Yorkshire in the Vitality Blast this weekend.

Key became managing director in April and promptly installed Stokes as Test captain and McCullum, the former New Zealand skipper, as head coach.

Stokes, who does not yet have a vice-captain, has led England once before in Test cricket, standing in for Root when he was on paternity leave in 2020.

McCullum, meanwhile, has not coached a red-ball side before, but as captain was credited with setting New Zealand on their path towards becoming World Test Champions last year. Key believes the pair will be a great combination.

“So far, they have been really good,” he said on the Vaughany and Tuffers Cricket podcast. “Stokes is growing as a captain, the way he carries himself, the way he communicates, his decisions, the way he sees himself.

“McCullum has been in the position Stokes has been in. What you can’t have in that situation is one person saying, ‘I’m doing it this way’, and the other saying, ‘I’m doing it that way’. Ultimately, your philosophy has to be the same, but you don’t have to be rigid. It’s open to interpretation.

“One of the reason McCullum ended up there is that way of working with Ben Stokes. You’ve not got two massive egos thinking, ‘It’s my show, my time, my way, be damned everyone else’. As much as they are big characters, they don’t have massive egos. They are prepared to put it to one side.

“McCullum’s like that, and Ben’s the same. His empathy, his understanding of people, he cares a lot about everyone around him, which I think is a great trait of a leader. He wants to do what he thinks is right and is prepared to have the debate. That is important.”

New Zealand were set to spend this afternoon’s training session assessing Trent Boult’s readiness to play. He has only just arrived in England, having played in Sunday’s IPL final. If Boult does not play, his position could go to spinner Ajaz Patel.

Middle-order batter Henry Nicholls is set to miss out after Covid set back his return from a groin injury, with Daryl Mitchell coming in at No5.

Unusually, there are still tickets available for the first four days, with MCC, proprietors of Lord’s, forced to defend their price point and putting the lower demand down to the Jubilee Bank Holiday weekend.

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