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England v New Zealand 2nd Test preview

No pressure then. Joe Root, England cricket’s new batting superstar, plays his first Test Match at his home ground, Headingley, this weekend and is just 2/1 to score a century.

But it seems that this baby-faced run machine, tipped to be the next England Captain once Alistair Cook has had enough, doesn’t do pressure. If he did crumble under the weight of expectations, he would surely have done so by now instead of calmly and elegantly meeting every challenge he has met so far with a battery of runs.

Root was already causing great excitement in the England camp by the time he was picked to play against India in Nagpur last year and it is a measure of the high regard in which he was already held that he surprised nobody when joint top-scoring with a patient 73.

Scores of 182 and 236 for Yorkshire this season to go along with a 179 for the England Lions in a warm-up against New Zealand this spring, simply confirmed his star quality. Make no mistake, Joe Root is the real deal and a Headingley century is certainly not just wishful thinking, although Coral’s offer of 5/1 to be England’s top scorer makes more appeal.

The weather forecast for the opening day tomorrow is a bit iffy, but after that it looks as though it will stay mainly dry over the weekend and allow enough play for England to wrap up a 2-0 series win.

The Kiwis can rightly argue that they were at least England’s equal in the drawn series in New Zealand over the winter and gave as good as they got until the last day at Lord’s when they disintegrated to 68 all out in the face of a barrage of sometimes unplayable deliveries from Stuart Broad and James Anderson.

Their bowling unit is pretty impressive, too, but all the talk this week of getting under the English batters’ skin with some choice sledging is just waffle. Far better they get in the ear of their own batsmen, who have been collapsing on an embarrassingly regular basis in recent times – they were toppled out by South Africa at Cape Town for just 45 in January and didn’t fare a whole lot better when scrambling to 121 later in that series.

Player for player, England do look the better side by some margin and with the Ashes series just around the corner it is probably more likely that they will now just be hitting their stride rather than wobbling under the distraction.

Coral’s 4/7 an England victory looks about right and so does the 7/4 on offer Anderson to be the home side’s top bowler. Headingley has seen bags of runs so far this year, including two double centuries in one match (one by Root), but there will still be something in it for the bowlers and Anderson, who bowled just as well as Broad in that sensational last innings at Lord’s without as much reward, is more likely than anybody to exploit occasional help from the conditions.

England v New Zealand 2nd Test preview – Jon Freeman