Can England start 2020 with positive Test form?


During what has been a spectacular year for the English game after hosting and winning the ICC Cricket World Cup, there’s little doubt surrounding how potent the team is when it comes to ODI performances.

However, uncertainty lingers regarding how England perform in Test cricket, having suffered yet another defeat as tourists following the Test series against New Zealand in November.

Over two tests, there were plenty of positives and negatives to take away. That said, the first test at the Bay Oval in Tauranga was an unmitigated disaster, as England were soundly beaten by an innings and 65 runs by New Zealand, who had amassed an unassailable 615/9 over five days in their first innings. For their part the Three Lions struggled, achieving 353 and 197 from two innings, unable to cope adequately against a rival they had clearly underestimated.

Thankfully, there was a marked improvement in the second Test at Seddon Park in Hamilton and particularly at the crease. If batting had been horrendous during the first Test, the second saw captain Joe Root return to form with an impressive 226, while Rory Burns also hit 101 as England reached 476 by the final day to draw the match, yet still lose 1-0 to New Zealand over the two-game series. Overall, the Black Caps were far superior with both bat and ball.

Lessons to be learned from New Zealand

While certain team selections were scrutinised and questioned, along with the need to shoehorn a short tour of New Zealand into the Test calendar, it’s also fair to say that a review of performances will serve as a valuable lesson for players and selectors alike. Speaking with the Guardian afterwards, batting coach Graham Thorpe insisted that such experiences are valuable as England plan ahead for the future.

“We’ve got to keep developing players, no doubt about that. They have to ask themselves when they come away from a trip like this: where can I get better?” insisted Thorpe, while adding, “It’s down to our players to be honest and for us to be honest with them. If we are going to keep trying to go up that Test ladder and really compete abroad, then we have to keep challenging players along the way.”

As the England team now prepare for their winter tour of South Africa, with the first five-day Test beginning on Boxing Day at Supersport Park in Centurion, the latest cricket betting odds at 888 Sport would suggest the Three Lions are favourites to win. However, that will only happen if lessons from the New Zealand tour have been fully embraced, taken to heart and acted upon, having failed to win any Test series in 2019.

England make changes ahead of South Africa tour

Getting off to a good start against South Africa would certainly be a boost, if they’re to take the series as it continues into 2020. Having now named their 17-man Test squad ahead the four-match series, inevitably, England have made some changes to the team which travelled to New Zealand recently. James Anderson, Jonathan Bairstow and Mark Wood return, while Saqib Mahmood has been left out this time and Moeen Ali remains unavailable.

Having been caught short in New Zealand, especially during the second Test when England used three unproven batsmen, a makeshift wicketkeeper and had no spinner in the team, selectors have brought more reliable figures back to the side. That said, the inclusion of Mark Wood still raises some eyebrows, given that he is still returning from injury and most likely won’t feature in the first couple of matches.

Proteas guarantees amidst South African cricket chaos

For the South Africa team England will face in December and January, the focus will be on putting up a strong display against the touring side. This comes amidst a period of transition on the pitch for the Proteas side, along with the much-publicised administrative chaos behind the scenes. This has included the threat of strike action by players, raising doubts the tour would even go ahead.

Nevertheless, despite uncertainty over an unnamed board of selectors choosing the Proteas team that will take on England, both Cricket South Africa and the South African Cricket Association have assured that matches will go ahead as planned. According to local reports, no industrial action will take place during the tour, leaving the respective teams able to get on with what they do best on the pitch, regardless of what’s happening off it.