LORD’S is set to witness a battle of the giants when Stuart Broad and Steven Finn take on New Zealand opener Peter Fulton in the first Investec Test.
“Two-metre” Peter may be pitted against England’s two beanpole seamers this morning, if the tourists end up batting first on day one of the two-match series.
Broad has Fulton, and a few others, in his sights and will be mindful of the dangers of trying to adapt his line of attack too much.
Fulton made a hundred in each innings – the first of the 34-year-old’s stop-start Test career – when the teams last met in Auckland, and England clung on for a 0-0 stalemate at the end of March.
Finn eventually got him each time but Broad is hoping it takes nowhere near as long this time.
The seamer, himself 1.96 metres tall, said: “The only different thing with ‘two-metre’ Peter is, if you go near the stumps, especially on those New Zealand wickets, he’d seem to hit it for four through the leg-side. His stats were quite high on leg-side scoring. So you do have to bowl a little bit different. But I think at the start of this series we’ll be looking to bowl disciplined, old school, top-of-off areas – and see where we go from there.
“From a bowling point of view, the first Test of the summer, English conditions, whoever you’re bowling at you want to just be testing their defence. You want to be top of off/top of ‘fourth-stump’, bringing the edge into play and threatening the stumps from time to time.”
Broad knows from his own experience, having started out as a schoolboy batsman before a growth spurt carried him up to his adult height, that stature can be a mixed blessing. “I find as a taller batsman, punching off the back foot and scoring off balls shorter batsmen can’t score off is a lot easier,” he said. “But the fuller, straighter deliveries are obviously a lot further from your eyes so they’re harder to deal with. There’s pros and cons but you do bring up more scoring areas with longer levers, I think.”
As an international bowler who bats these days, Broad is wary of tailoring his aim too far from the norm.
“It can affect bowling at different heights of batsmen but it shouldn’t,” he said. “A top-of-off ball is a top-of-off ball and that’s where you want to be 95 per cent of the time. As a team we want to get back to basics, challenge the defence of each New Zealand batsman.”
Meanwhile, Kiwi captain Brendon McCullum is relishing the prospect of pitting his and New Zealand’s wits and talents against an improved England.
He rejects the suggestion that England showed their hosts any lack of respect in the 0-0 stalemate over three Tests in New Zealand two months ago, reasoning instead that his team had simply grasped the initiative from the outset. He anticipates, however, that Alastair Cook’s men will be tougher nuts to crack at home and the Black Caps will once again have to “punch above their weight”.
A cool spring in London promises conditions not too far removed from those in Dunedin at the start of March, when England were caught cold and bowled out for 167 on day one.
But McCullum said: “They will be more aware of us. They’re playing in their backyard as well, so we know we’re going to have to improve.
“They will probably swing the ball a bit more than in New Zealand, where they also struggled a touch with the Kookaburra (ball).
“They will be a far more dangerous proposition. Their batters are very clinical at home.”