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England v New Zealand: Third Test preview

After the excitement of the Netherlands ODI tour – and my it was fun – it’s time to turn back to the red-ball stuff for the third and final match of the England v New Zealand Test series.

Jonny Bairstow’s remarkable innings at Trent Bridge clinched a series win for the hosts but Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum will want to continue their perfect record and make it three in three.

There’s absolutely no reason why they can’t do just that at Headingley but from what we’ve seen so far we know that win, lose, or draw, England will be playing positive, fearless cricket.

Ben Stokes’ England 

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There were concerns about the skipper when he missed training on Tuesday but he was back on Wednesday and will lead the side in what is his first Test at the Leeds ground since he produced perhaps the greatest innings ever against the Aussies in 2019.

The only change to the side that has won the first two games of the series sees Surrey pacer Jamie Overton handed his debut in place of Jimmy Anderson, who is sidelined with an ankle issue.

In doing so, Jamie and Craig will become the first twin brothers to play Test cricket for England – though the latter is not part of the squad for the third Test.

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The rest of the XI is unchanged but the batting lineup will be even more confident after they scored more than 800 runs in Nottingham with centuries for Ollie Pope, Jonny Bairstow, and Joe Root.

Alex Lees looked to be playing with newfound freedom at Trent Bridge, likely down to the front-foot approach of the McStokes era England.

What can we expect from them in the series finale, then? More of the same it seems, with Stokesy calling for his team to build on what they did in the second Test.

It’s hard to believe things could get any better than that final day at Trent Bridge but the England captain wants his team to “feel like we’re in the entertainment business and not the sports business”.

Confirmed XI: Lees, Crawley, Pope, Root, Bairstow, Stokes (c), Foakes, Overton, Potts, Leach, Broad

Kane Williamson’s New Zealand

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Illness kept Kane Williamson out of the Trent Bridge Test and threatened to limit their options for Headingley as well but they look set to be at full strength for the series finale – bar the absence of Kyle Jamieson after he picked up an injury in Nottingham.

The Kiwis have not quite yet reached top gear during this series, mostly due to England’s brilliance, but will want to regain some pride and avoid a three-nil thrashing.

Doing that against a McStokes team that look to have found their identity will not be easy but we know that New Zealand aren’t short of talent themselves.

Williamson should return to the team to replace Henry Nicholls while Michael Bracewell did enough in his debut to reprise his role and Neil Wagner is the obvious option to replace the injured Jamieson – joining Matt Henry, Tim Southee, and Trent Boult in the seam attack.

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Boult has backed his side to bounce back in Leeds, adding: “I suppose it’s hard being 2-0 down in the series but there’s a lot of pride in that changing room from some of the performances we’ve put out over the last few years.

“If we’re fair we probably haven’t been at the standards we want to be as a group, it’s nice to have one game to go out and play like we know we can.”

Predicted XI: Latham, Young, Williamson (c), Conway, Mitchell, Blundell, Bracewell, Southee, Henry, Wagner, Boult

Prediction 

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New Zealand will be hurting a little but England are on a roll now and could well make it 3-0.

We know that Stokesy can do special things at Headingley and with the side looking to play in his image, we could be in for another magnificent Test.