England vs New Zealand predictions: Kiwis looking to end on a high

Rob Eddy
LiveScore
It has been a tough Test series for Kane Williamson and New Zealand so far
It has been a tough Test series for Kane Williamson and New Zealand so far

England's new Test era under the guidance of head coach Brendon McCullum and captain Ben Stokes has got off to the perfect start.

They ended their nine-game winless run in the opening Test of the series against New Zealand at Lord's and followed it up with a stunning run chase at Trent Bridge.

Not since Trevor Bayliss' side toured Sri Lanka in 2018 have England gone into the final match of a series knowing that a win was already secured.

Though they have won some of the 14 series since then, their form had nosedived so much over the last 18 months or so, it was difficult to see any kind of bright future for the side, regardless of the opponent.

They came into these matches on the back of five successive series defeats, having won just two Tests in that sequence, a terrible run that ultimately cost Chris Silverwood his coaching position, and Joe Root the captaincy.

The make-up of the side has largely stayed the same but the positivity of McCullum's approach, aligned with Stokes' leadership, has had a dramatic effect.

This time last year on these shores, New Zealand were beating England 1-0 in a two-Test series before going on to be crowned the inaugural World Test champions with victory over India at Southampton.

But they have failed to win a series since since then, losing 1-0 in a two-Test series in India before they were then held to draws at home by minnows Bangladesh and South Africa.

They now find themselves 2-0 down to England with nothing but pride to play for going into the final Test.

Team news

Jamie Overton will be hoping to shine on his Test debut
Jamie Overton will be hoping to shine on his Test debut

England are set to make one change to the side who have given them an unassailable 2-0 lead.

James Anderson's ankle issue will keep him out of the action, allowing Surrey quick Jamie Overton, twin brother of bowler Craig, to make his debut.

Batting coach Marcus Trescothick is self isolating after testing positive for Covid-19 and Stokes did miss training on Tuesday, before batting and bowling a day later to dispel fears of an outbreak.

There is no doubt New Zealand have had more issues on the injury front. 

Skipper Kane Williamson missed the second Test after a positive test, while Kyle Jamieson was unable to bowl in the fourth innings due to a back injury and is ruled out.

The captain looks set to return for this match, while Devon Conway and Michael Bracewell should play after their own positive tests.

Neil Wagner though is pushing for a return, having perhaps surprisingly missed the first two Tests, and he should freshen up an attack that has failed to prevent two successful run chases.

Predictions

It is easy to get caught up in the euphoria of England actually winning Test matches but New Zealand have had chances in the first two. 

Fourth-innings centuries from Root and Jonny Bairstow respectively have allowed McCullum's men to prevail on both occasions.

Confidence should be high though in the England camp and it is the perfect environment for Jamie Overton to debut, but there are still question marks over the batting line-up, in particular Zak Crawley at the top.

There is little doubt New Zealand are a better team with Williamson in it, with his absence a contributing factor in the Black Caps' failure to win any of their last four series.

Admittedly he failed in both innings at Lord's but he is a class act on his day and strengthens the line-up, while Wagner's inclusion should add a bit of spice to their attack.

The weather is expected to play some part in proceedings with early forecasts suggesting days two and five might see a shower or two, which may give the bowlers help at times. 

There are still question marks over the batters on both sides and the temptation would be to pick a bowler as Player of the Match.

Trent Boult looks a prime bowling candidate and were it not for Bairstow's heroics, may have picked it up at Trent Bridge after snaring eight wickets on a batter-friendly surface.

On the batting front, Daryl Mitchell stands out having hit two hundreds and an unbeaten 50 already to comfortably lead the run-scoring charts with 373 at an average of 124.33.

Root, who has been phenomenal with the bat for England over the last 18 months or so, has also scored two hundreds in what has been an excellent series so far, amassing 305 runs at an average of 101.66.

Tom Blundell is third in terms of both aggregate runs and average which does suggest New Zealand are a little unlucky to be 2-0 down in what has a been an evenly-matched contest, and they will be desperate to at least finish on a high.

The Black Caps did win on their last visit to Headingley, beating England by 199 runs back in 2015, although the hosts have enjoyed recent Tests in Yorkshire, having beaten both Pakistan (2018) and India (2021) by an innings, while they rather enjoyed Stokes' heroics in a one-wicket win over Australia in 2019.

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