The start of the England v New Zealand Test series is just days away and we cannot tell you how excited we are.
That said, it’s absolutely gutting that our friends from the Beige Brigade won’t be arriving en masse as is tradition but we still wanted to get their thoughts on what looks set to be a fantastic contest.
Beige Brigade co-founder Paul Ford was kind enough (and that really is the phrase given the time difference) to give us the low down from a New Zealand fans’ perspective…
How will New Zealand fans be feeling ahead of the series?
“I think it’s a combination of quiet confidence, mild aggravation, and good old-fashioned bloody excitement.
“Quietly confident given the disrespect England have shown us with the selection of their team, deeming it as not even a warm-up for the India series but for the Ashes six months away. I’m personally a cricket fan first and a patriot second, so it’s quite gutting to not have the best that England and Wales can throw at us.
“Bloody excited because Test cricket in England is an utterly magnificent spectacle. All the traditions, the hallowed institutions, and the amazing grounds. I think there’s just this really genuine obsession with Test cricket in my experience.
“It’s devastating not to be over there. I get that it would be kind of weird – I think 25% crowds at Lord’s and 70% at Edgbaston. I’m going to be so envious but I’ll be stoked if I see a few mates there!
“Lots of Beige Brigade people are back in New Zealand now but it’s a bit like Where’s Wally, there’s always one or two, no matter where we’re playing a Test match.”
Who would you say are the dangermen that England fans should be worried about?
“The old dogs are back again. Our team has done super well over the last few years and a real reason for that is this consistent selection policy – they’ve let guys fail and kept picking them until they’ve come good again.
“You can’t look far past Kane Williamson. He’s just such a rock. The rock upon which the team is built.
“He’s a terrific player and a great captain but he’s also this archetypal New Zealander – he doesn’t whinge, he always does his best, he’s the guy that does the most nets, he’s humble, he’s annoyingly good at everything, and he never says a bad word about anybody. I don’t think he’s done quite as well in England as he might’ve liked, so look out!
“Trent Boult in English will be fantastic I think, so hopefully he gets back from injury for the second Test.
“Tim Southee, he’s one of those guys. He’s got 50 wickets against England at about 33. He’s like a good port, he’s getting better with age.
“He’s been over to England four times and he just seems to have worked out how to do it. That swinging Duke ball, the pronounced seam, murky conditions, he’s already got his name up on the honours board.
“I really hope Colin De Grandhomme gets a game. He’s a Harare-born beast that’s rocking a sensational mullet at the moment. He bats like Cairns, smashes the crap out of it, and averages over 50 against England. He also wobbles it around with the ball and he’s just coming back from ankle injury and will be an absolute force if he gets going.”
What about any new faces we might not recognise?
“The squad is based upon the IPL guys not being there, so it’s a bit bigger than it normally would be.
“One of those new guys who sold for a bazillion dollars in the IPL is Kyle Jamieson, who hasn’t played Test cricket in England yet. He’s only played six Tests but has 36 wickets at 13 and is the tallest New Zealand player to ever play for New Zealand at 6ft8.
“He’s going to get bounce and really enjoy the English conditions. He’s quite fearsome, he gets fired up and quite nasty. He’ll be a real character.
“Devon Conway is another. He’s a 29-year-old born in Johannesburg, a left-handed batter who came to New Zealand to give things a crack.
“He is a magnificent batsman to watch. I feel a bit sorry for him because he’s the kind of guy that should’ve been playing international cricket for 10 years now. Instead, he’ll be making his Test debut at Lord’s – cry me a river! He’s been waiting in the wings and has come in with a weight of expectation and still performed superbly.
“Conway has a cover drive to die for but he’s the kind of guy that scores 120 and his partner scores 16 but in the press conference he’ll be talking about how good that 16 is. Despite being South African, he’s really worked out how to behave like a New Zealander.
“He’s going to be a real force. Everybody’s saying we’ve just got to get him into the team, I think what’s going to happen is that they’ll drop Blundell and put Conway in as a makeshift opener.
“Young Rachin Ravindra is a left-handed batsman and a pretty handy left-arm spinner. Normally, he opens the batting but he can really operate anywhere in that top six.
“He’s come back from shoulder injury but is one of those kids people have been keeping an eye on for a while, there’s big wraps on him.
“Rachin is known as one of the most hard-working players in New Zealand. It’s going to be interesting whether he can eclipse Mitchell Santner if they play a spinner.
“Potentially he could play in that all-rounder spot, where he’d be up against the likes of De Grandhomme and Daryl Mitchell for a place in the XI.”
How confident will New Zealand be ahead of the series? Which England players will they be worried about?
“I’ve watched enough cricket in England in-person to know that you can turn up feeling really confident, but England in home conditions are so tough, no matter what names are in their XI.
“I wouldn’t say that we’re cocky but we’re quietly confident. Over the last few years our Test team has learnt how to win from really difficult situations and the conditions should suit us – but we definitely won’t be taking England easy.
“It’ll be a real battle even against a so-called weakened team. It’s exciting, it’s really really exciting.
“There’ll be that motivation going back to Lord’s and trying to get the job done but there isn’t a massive vendetta against England because of the World Cup. We don’t hate England like we hate Australia, but then who does?!
“I haven’t heard talk of revenge, but we’ve sent good teams over there that haven’t done as well as expected. I do think this team has been a trailblazer with their success so they will be desperate to change that and go one step further.
“In terms of English players that we’re worried about, it’s the big three – Joe Root averages close to 50 against us, Jimmy Anderson has 60 wickets at 27, and Stuart Broad has demolished us in the past including that fateful day at Lord’s last time we were in England.”
Finally, what’s your score prediction for the series?
“I think 1-0 and then the rain will come at Edgbaston. I think we’ll win at Lord’s, we’ll be fresh and we’ll get Wagner out there bowling four out of six short, and I think Ross Taylor’s due some runs.
“I’d love us to win the first Test and then a final-ball thriller draw in the second. I’d take that.”