The visitors had been considering a late change to their XI, after monitoring the fitness of seam bowlers Ollie Robinson, James Anderson and Stuart Broad, with only a five-day gap between the end of their 267-run win in Mount Maunganui and the start of the Wellington Test.
Of his decision to go with the same three pacers, skipper Ben Stokes said: “It’s a fine line between picking the strongest XI but also making sure the bowlers are 100 per cent ready to go.
“I just texted them, because they’re not in training today, saying ‘are you good for the game?’ and they said ‘yeah’. It was pretty easy to name the team once they gave me the all-clear.”
The Basin Reserve wicket is due to be very green, with Stokes saying the bowlers were “licking their lips” when they first saw the pitch.
“It looks like the lines of the wicket have been painted on the outfield,” Stokes said. “But that’s generally how the wickets do look here at the Basin. You can’t read too much into it, because the ball can nip around, but it can also be incredibly flat.
“In our changing room we have the honours board with batters and bowlers. You can see people have taken five or six wickets but also gone for a few runs.
“There are also people on board who have scored massive hundreds. As Baz [Brendon McCullum] said, sometimes you can bowl teams out cheaply, but sometimes it can play into your favour, and the pace and bounce plays into favour of batsmen.”
Anderson’s inclusion follows the 40-year-old’s return to being ranked as the ICC’s No1 Test bowler in the world, making him the oldest bowler to top the rankings since 1936. It is the sixth time that Anderson has been ranked No1 and the first time since 2018.
“No,” Stokes half-joked as to whether it will bring a smile to the notoriously grumpy Anderson’s face.
“We’re lucky to have him. Rightfully so he’s back at the top. Sometimes those rankings don’t mean much to people, but he has been one of the best, if not the best, for longer than what these rankings say.”
England are searching for an 11th win in 12 matches and a seventh in a row, a feat they have not achieved since 2004, when they beat West Indies at The Oval, a match that Anderson himself was playing in.
The Test is also a homecoming of sorts for Stokes, who lived in Wellington for two years before he moved to Cumbria as a 13-year-old. Stokes even made mention of a few memories coming back to him when giving his press conference from the indoor school at the Basin Reserve.
“Takes me back to being a bit younger and practising here,” he said. “Doing representative stuff for Wellington. I had few nights’ training here as a kid.”
The Test is sold-out across the first three days, although bad weather is set to play some part in the match, with rain forcing both teams to move their final training session indoors.
New Zealand face the prospect of suffering their first series defeat on home shores in six years, but they will be boosted by the return of Matt Henry, who missed the First Test to be at the birth of his child.
“Matt’s been a new bowler in the side for the last while and he’ll slip back in”, said New Zealand captain Tim Southee. “We’ve played some good cricket in our conditions for a long period. Having won a lot of games in that time, that’s where home advantage comes into it.