Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 7 July 2020

New Zealand consider sending Lockie Ferguson in for pace battle with England gunslinger Jofra Archer

Black Caps coach could be set to 'fight fire with fire' by handing pace bowler his debut in first Test

New Zealand coach Gary Stead is pondering whether to "fight fire with fire" and hand Lockie Ferguson his Test bow in an attempt to combat the threat of Jofra Archer.

All eyes will be on Archer in Mount Maunganui this week, on his first Test overseas, as he looks to carry on where he left off in the Ashes, where the England bowler took 22 wickets in four Tests at an average of 20.27.

Ferguson, like Archer, shone at the World Cup, bowling similar speeds in excess of 90mph and took one more wicket than his England counterpart across the tournament.

Stead hopes the 28-year-old paceman can make a similar impact in the longest format to Archer.

"[Archer's pace] is obviously a point of difference but we've got someone in our squad who bowls at a similar type of speed as well who's pretty quick in Lockie Ferguson," Stead said.

"It's really exciting for Lockie and a potential debut for him at some stage as well to be able to fight fire with fire in some ways.

"[Archer] is a world-class player, he's come on and started in the Ashes with a real hiss and a roar.

"For us it's about getting used to that extra pace and then combating it and working out a way you can continue to score at. Jofra Archer will be a threat but he can only bowl from one end."

Veteran seamer Tim Southee and left-arm enforcer Neil Wagner are most at risk if the Black Caps do decide to plump for Ferguson on Thursday.

The series will not count towards the World Test Championship, giving new England coach Chris Silverwood room to experiment in his first Test series in charge.

He is expected to hand opening batsman Dom Sibley his debut, partnering Rory Burns, with Root moving down to No 4 in the order.

Sibley has witnessed the breakneck pace generated by Archer at close hand and believes it will be a factor in England's favour with an ageing Kookaburra ball.

Archer's speed and hostility has already had an impact in the last few days as his bouncer thudded into the helmet of New Zealand A batsman Hamish Rutherford, who was later ruled out of the rest of the warm-up match with concussion.

Sibley said of Archer: "He's got a special talent, it looks effortless. He gets that steep bounce because he releases it from such a high point.

"Most sports, whether it's rugby, football or cricket, having someone who's quick, it sort of scares people at certain times. Having that pace, it gives batsmen something different to think about.

"It's massive to have for us in the middle overs, for sure."

New Zealand and England will take their cricketing rivalry into the Test arena after finding themselves evenly matched in recent limited-overs thrillers.

England have bragging rights after winning a rollercoaster World Cup final in July, then edging the Black Caps 3-2 in a desperately close Twenty20 series completed earlier this month.

Both the one-day decider and T20 series needed tie-breakers to find a winner and there will be no shortage of mutual respect when the rivals face off again in the first Test at Mount Maunganui.

On paper, there again appears to be little to separate the teams, with New Zealand second in the Test rankings and England third.

But England skipper Root is painfully aware that his team under-performed when they lost a two-Test series in New Zealand last year after underestimating the Black Caps on their home turf.

Trent Boult and Southee bundled the tourists out for 58 in the first innings of the opening Test.

Root said his team would be taking a more measured approach this time, with batsmen placing an emphasis on protecting their wickets.

"We have to be prepared to play some attritional cricket at times," he said. "We have to try to bat longer ... it would be nice to get used to batting for 120 overs more regularly, especially in the first innings."

Updated: November 19, 2019 12:04 PM



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