England unchanged for second N.Zealand Test after 'perfect game'
England named an unchanged team for the second and final Test against New Zealand in Wellington starting Friday, after captain Ben Stokes said they had played "the perfect game" to go 1-0 up in the series.
The tourists dominated the first Test in Mount Maunganui to win by 267 runs with 40-year-old fast bowler James Anderson claiming seven wickets.
The haul has seen him return to the top of the Test bowling world rankings for the sixth time in his career and the first time since 2018, deposing Australia captain Pat Cummins.
Stokes was not surprised Anderson had returned to the pinnacle after claiming match figures of 7-54 at the Bay Oval, forming part of a potent pace trio with Stuart Broad and Ollie Robinson.
"I don't think he'll be that fussed by it, to be honest. He'll just keep doing his thing," Stokes said on Thursday.
"I think, and a lot of guys in the dressing room do, that Jimmy has been certainly one of the best in the world for a long, long time.
"He's someone I know I can throw the ball to when I need a wicket, so having someone like him along with Broady and Robbo is a real treat to be able to captain at the moment."
Stokes said consideration had been given to resting one or more of his front-line seamers for the Basin Reserve contest but all three informed him on Thursday they felt fresh and ready to go.
- 'Tough sessions' -
He hinted the trio may have been motivated by the grass-laden nature of the pitch, which appears to hold the promise of sideways movement.
"It is a fine line between picking your strongest 11 but then also making sure your bowlers are a hundred percent ready," Stokes said.
"It was pretty easy to name the team, once they gave the all-clear they were all good to go."
Last week's win was England's 10th from 11 Tests under Stokes, and England's first on New Zealand soil in 15 years.
Stokes was proud his team achieved it by adhering to a game plan that involved piling pressure on New Zealand's top order when they batted in seam-friendly conditions under lights.
"When we feel like it's time to put the other team under pressure, that's what we try and do and we were able to do that," Stokes said.
"I think we played near enough the perfect game, considering it was a day-night Test match."
A draw or win in Wellington would subject New Zealand to their first home series defeat in six years.
Black Caps skipper Tim Southee hopes a forecast for rain on each of the first two days proves inaccurate, believing his team have the pedigree to square the series.
They have fashioned a strong record at the Basin Reserve, having notched seven wins and just two losses from 14 Tests there over the last decade.
"We know these conditions reasonably well and having won a few series and a lot of games in that time, I guess that's where home advantage comes into it," he said.
"England, strategically, played it beautifully last week and we had a couple of tough sessions under lights.
"But we're now moving forward into a traditional Test match, you can't dwell on what happened."
Southee confirmed seamer Matt Henry would play after missing the first Test to attend the birth of his child but wouldn't divulge who will make way.
New Zealand (from): Tom Latham, Devon Conway, Kane Williamson, Henry Nicholls, Will Young, Daryl Mitchell, Tom Blundell, Michael Bracewell, Scott Kuggeleijn, Tim Southee (capt), Matt Henry, Neil Wagner, Blair Tickner
England: Zak Crawley, Ben Duckett, Ollie Pope, Joe Root, Harry Brook, Ben Stokes (capt), Ben Foakes, Ollie Robinson, Stuart Broad, Jack Leach, Jimmy Anderson