Sun, 20 Jun 2021

Majority of New Zealand Test contingent arrives in UK

ESPNCricInfo
17 May 2021, 16:43 GMT+10

The majority of the New Zealand Test contingent landed in London on Sunday after flying from Auckland via Singapore, for their tour of two Tests against the hosts and the World Test Championship final against India next month. The players and support staff were transferred from the London airport to the Ageas Bowl in Southampton, their base for the first two weeks of the tour.

An NZC release stated the squad is "adhering to strict health protocols", starting with pre-departure vaccinations and Covid-19 tests, in the wake of the pandemic.

"While in England, they will operate in a 'controlled team environment' to limit outside contact and risk of transmission," the release said. "All tour members will complete a daily self-reported health screening as well as undergoing regular Covid testing."

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All contingent members will spend the first three days in hotel room isolation before "mini training groups" of six can be formed from days four to six, pending negative Covid-test results.

Travelling with the squad to the UK, Dr John Cameron said: "We prepared a travel kit for the guys, trying to make sure they are fully informed. We did Zoom conferences about how we could manage each other's risks, and not just managing our own risks but the impact of anything that can happen to us because the main goal here is to have a team fit to play in that World Test Championship final."

Tim Southee, BJ Watling, Ross Taylor and Neil Wagner left from Auckland on Monday afternoon New Zealand time to join the squad in Southampton.

A few players and support staff members who participated in the truncated IPL in India had earlier flown to the Maldives and will arrive in the UK on Monday, local time. This group includes captain Kane Williamson, Kyle Jamieson, Mitchell Santner, team physio Tommy Simsek and trainer Chris Donaldson.

The Test squad earlier got together in Lincoln for camps and training sessions before their departure, especially to get used to the Dukes ball, which is used for Test matches in England. Wagner said the opportunity to train with the Dukes ball, unlike in the past when the players didn't have much time, was "quite beneficial".

"It's been quite nice, it's obviously got different characteristics to the Kookaburra," Wagner said. "The way we've been training for the last while is something we didn't always have in the past, having the facilities and having a marquee up and getting a number of trainings in before going to England. On tours in the past, you rock up there and you've only got a couple of trainings and maybe one head out with the Dukes ball before the first Test and with that you can find yourself a little bit behind.

"But having had those little bit of trainings leading into it has been quite beneficial, just because it's a little bit different, and obviously adapting to it. It has been really good preparation and everybody is excited bowling with it. Sometimes you have to control all that because there's a high expectation of the ball doing a lot and moving around but sometimes you can get there and it can be quite flat and slow as well. The nice thing about it is we've got a wealth of experience and the guys have been there before so we can feed off each other and bounce ideas off each other as well. Everybody has played good stints of county cricket or playing for New Zealand [in England] as well."

Wagner, the No. 3-ranked bowler in the ICC Test rankings, said they were not going to treat the two Tests against England as warm-ups before the WTC final, and having played a few times before in the country gave them a sense of familiarity with the grounds and conditions. Wagner is touring the UK for the third time for New Zealand, although he played only during the 2013 series when England won the two-match series 2-0.

"The nice thing is that the nerves and the unknowns are away, I've played at Lord's couple of times now," he said. "I've played one Test there in 2013 and a couple of county games too so it's nice to get there when things feel familiar. Sometimes you can get there and get a little but starstruck with the whole experience and everything because you grow up as a kid wanting to be there and all those sort of things. Having been there and played on those grounds, we've been around those conditions so it's nice to go there and hit the ground running, knowing what to expect.

"We're not going to treat these two Test matches against England just as warm-ups. I know for a fact we're going to get out there and pride ourselves the way we've been playing Test cricket and we want to win Test matches for New Zealand."

Batter Will Young, who scored back-to-back centuries for Durham in his month-long County Championship stint recently, will also join the squad on Monday and undergo isolation at the Ageas Bowl before he can start training with his team-mates.

The squad members are scheduled to play a three-day intra-squad game from May 26 to 28 at the Ageas Bowl, where six local bowlers have also isolated in advance to help make up the sides.

Fast bowler Trent Boult is still in New Zealand and will fly to Mount Maunganui to see his family before "a plan is made around his departure to the UK". He could miss both the Tests against England but will be available for the WTC final.

The Test series against England will begin on June 2 at Lord's followed by the second game starting June 10 at Edgbaston. New Zealand will then take on India in the WTC final from June 18 in Southampton.

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