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Exclusive: ‘New Zealand punch above their weight’ – Alastair Cook

by Wisden Staff 3 minute read

In an exclusive chat, former England captain Alastair Cook looked back on his battles against New Zealand with fondness and lauded a side consistently able to “punch above their weight”.

England are touring New Zealand for two Tests, with the first starting on Thursday, November 21. It will mark the start of a new era, under new coach Chris Silverwood, and with fresh faces in the line-up. Cook expected the side to be treated to another keen contest against a formidable opponent.

“They are a very effective side and [this series] will be a good start to this next English cycle,” he said.

“They have always punched, you know, the good old saying – ‘punching above their weight’, considering their resources. I have really enjoyed playing against them. We’ve always matched up well, have had plenty of great series’ with them,” he told the Wisden Cricket Weekly Podcast.

Cook reminisced about the 2015 series between the sides, when New Zealand toured England for two Tests. He had fond memories of the Lord’s Test in that series – England won it by 124 runs, but it’s the memories of the atmosphere that really brought a smile to his face.

“The 2015 series in England was a brilliant series. There was a great game at Lord’s, there was a mad Monday or something, with 10 pounds a ticket and Lord’s made a lot of noise. I have never heard Lord’s make so much noise, except at this year’s World Cup final,” he added.

New Zealand’s strength is their potent fast bowling attack, led by the formidable duo of Trent Boult and Tim Southee. The two are third and fourth on New Zealand’s all-time wicket-takers’ list in Tests, separated by just three wickets. Cook identified their partnership as crucial to New Zealand’s success.

“As a combination they are [among the best],” he said. “They are not express pace, but they have got great control and they can swing the ball. Anytime you are facing bowlers who swing it, it makes a difference.”

Another effective weapon in New Zealand’s arsenal is the workhorse Neil Wagner, whose bowling repertoire comprises unplayable bouncers. Wagner’s presence in the team adds to the balance, according to Cook, who has played with the fast bowler for Essex in the County Championship.

While Boult and Southee make it difficult for a batsman to play on the front foot, Wagner’s short balls are a constant threat to those batsmen who like playing it late on the back foot. “They are balanced well. They have plenty of options,” said Cook. “I know Wags [Wagner] pretty well, playing for Essex. That relentless bounce off him, you know what’s coming as a batter, but he is hard to play. He finds that length incredibly well. He is a good option for the New Zealand captain to have.”

Cook has a less than favourable record in New Zealand, averaging just 27.13 in eight Tests, but said he enjoyed batting in the country. While his figures were “disappointing”, he did have a hundred there, he pointed out.

“It is normally a great place to bat, pretty similar to English conditions in terms of pitches. Obviously it’s a different ball, you’d say the Kookaburra ball would do less than a Dukes ball,” he said.

Listen to the full podcast episode below:

Not to be missed: 

  • The first Test preview

  • When Sir Viv visited the pod

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