England vs NZ 2022, 3rd Test

At some point, Ben Stokes may have to stop urging his team to go bigger and better. But for now, the England captain has encouraged his players to “think we’re in the entertainment business” when they head to Headingley for the third Test against New Zealand.

Leading 2-0 after a spectacular series win over Trent Bridge, Stokes, inspired by new head coach Brendon McCullum, is clearly in no mood to take things down. Accordingly, England have chosen to give Surrey, the speedy Jamie Overton, his debut. He will come in the starting line-up – the only change – for James Anderson, who will not be at risk after reporting ankle problems during the week.

Overton has clocked in at 90mph in the County Championship this season, taking 21 Division One wickets at an average of 21.61. It’s just as much a reward for form, the realization of potential and the fact that the likes of Jofra Archer, Mark Wood and Olly Stone are injured – all X factor propositions with their distinct pace that Stokes thinks will bring Overton to the party.

“I would always like to make a difference with my bowling attack,” said Stokes. “Obviously Jimmy and Jamie are completely different bowlers. But it’s a great opportunity for us to look at England with someone who can bowl fast because we don’t have Stoney, Woody or Jofra to do that for us at the moment.” .

“We all know how important pace can play in a team, especially when the wicket is flat and you want to break a partnership. It’s always great to have someone in your back pocket who can bowl fast.”

It was in 2020 when Stokes had first hand experience of Overton’s gifts. After being named in a 55-man training group selected during the first summer of the Covid-19 pandemic, Overton was selected for Team Stokes in a closed-door match at the Ageas Bowl. Asked to cast an enemy spell of bumpers, he duly delivered. “Jamie was part of that group at the Ageas Bowl in 2020 and I remember asking him to bowl fast and short in the batters, he made six overs of it and it was very impressive,” said Stokes. “He definitely has the attitude and qualities to become an international player and that’s why he managed to get the call this week.”

Fire on the attack is perhaps the only thing missing from the bizarre cricket that England have served against New Zealand this series. It is indeed something the team longs for, apart from the fleeting moments when they have been able to call on Wood, Archer or Stone. Of course, Overton will have to combine pace with control and trickery to excel at this level.

But Overton will be encouraged to express himself and enjoy the opportunity as much for himself as for those watching. As well as securing a 3-0 win, Stokes will continue to play for the crowd as they did at Trent Bridge last week in a remarkable final day of the second Test. In turn, he hopes for something akin to Jonny Bairstow’s wonderful, groundbreaking 136.

“We want to walk away from the series by winning three-nil because it sounds better for 2-1. But, as I said to the guys above before we started training today, the result will come this week. Let’s carry on some we’ve done the past two weeks and try to think we’re in the entertainment business this week and not the sports business.

“What you saw on that day five last week is exactly what it was. For us it was a matter of just chasing the runs, not how many overs there were. At no point did we look at that. I think it was pretty obvious from the fact that we knocked them out in 16 overs in the last session Johnny and I just decided it was a time to put as much pressure on them as possible and that’s what we’re doing this week.

“There will come a time, sometime this week, when we… [will] have to do with the ball or the bat. So yeah, I wouldn’t be surprised if you see something similar to what Jonny did last week because I’m sure if one of our guys comes in they’ll want to do something. Maybe not as good as what Jonny did last week, but something similar.”

Sure, Stokes hopes one of those “boys” could be Zak Crawley. The opener is the only English batter to have recorded this streak for half a century, averaging just 14 after returning 4 and a duck in the second Test.

“I really hope he feels that this could be his week. But Zak is a team man. You know it’s always disappointing when you struggle to score points yourself, but there’s a reason Zak is on this team. Because everyone knows what a player he is and what a great future he has in an England shirt But Zak, who didn’t do well last week and see Popey and Jonny do well, wouldn’t put him off. Winning is the most important thing for him. The quality player that Zak is ,,We know a big score is just around the corner. And if he does it will be entertaining for sure.”

Fans usually arrive at Headingley in anticipation, as this place seems to puke more than a host of classics. That will be multiplied given how the home side are performing at the moment. Coincidentally, this will be the first time Stokes has played here in an international of any kind since that raid against Australia in 2019, which had no recent match for unfathomable English test wins until Trent Bridge 2022.

“They had the highlights there before on the big screen, which was pretty fun to look back on,” Stokes said with a smile as he stood on the outfield.

“It’s always a great place to play here as an English cricketer. You get fantastic support, we always have and I’m sure we always will. Is that the Western Terrace? It’s a good position. We always like to play here. The only bad thing is the size of the dressing rooms, everything on the ground is good.”

Vithushan Ehantharajah is a sports journalist for ESPNcricinfo

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