England players prepare for a possibility of three days with NO TRAINING ahead of test match with New Zealand as Brendon McCullum’s side are forced to make alternative plans at Mount Maunganui in the wake of Cyclone Gabrielle
- England’s cricket stars face a spell of inactivity before their next test match
- Brendon McCullum’s side are facing a crisis caused by Cyclone Gabrielle
- The tropical storm has hampered England’s training plans in New Zealand
Brendon McCullum told England to ‘run towards danger’ as he launched the high-octane style of Test cricket that was to transform a side at rock bottom. But he probably did not have Cyclone Gabrielle in mind when he said it.
England arrived here from Hamilton on Sunday, via a somewhat soggy barbeque at their coach’s house in Matamata, with heavy rain and strong winds casting a dark cloud over at least their preparation for Thursday’s first Test – and maybe the start of the game.
The peak of a cyclone described by Weather Watch New Zealand as ‘the worst storm to hit the country this century’ is heading for the very north of New Zealand’s north island on Monday.
But enough rain looks sure to fall on the Bay of Plenty to make it near impossible for England to add to their three days practice last week and two days of light warm-up match action at Seddon Park with a pink ball against a green New Zealand XI.
The hosts were on Sunday hoping against hope that a marquee set up on the picturesque Mount Maunganui ground will hold firm and allow for practice under cover but England were preparing for the worst-case scenario of three inactive days before the day-night Test.
England head coach Brendon McCullum has seen his team’s training plans thrown into disarray
England players are hoping the ground at Mount Maunganui will hold firm to allow them to train ahead of their next test
But there are suggestions that the England players may be forced into taking three days off due to bad weather in New Zealand
And fingers are being very much crossed here that a ground which has more of a club feel about it and none of the elaborate drainage systems of England’s Test venues can withstand the assault and be ready for McCullum’s highly anticipated homecoming.
Not that it bothers a team with the New Zealand legend’s relaxed approach to practice, with England believing they are ready for this two-match series against the team they defeated 3-0 at home last summer to begin the ‘Bazball’ revolution.
‘I don’t think so,’ said England’s Ollie Robinson when asked if the cyclone was a concern. ‘We’ve known it was coming for a couple of days now and we’ve got our heads round maybe not training for the three days before this game.
‘If we can get in the marquee then great but we know that might be tricky. If we can’t train before Thursday I still feel we’ve had a good prep and we’re ready to go anyway.
‘My family were due to arrive here Monday morning but I’ve changed their flights now because that looks like being the peak of the storm. We’ll be keeping tabs on it but hopefully it won’t affect us too much.’
One thing Robinson has certainly had enough of already, along with the rest of the attack, is bowling with a pink ball England clearly do not believe is suitable for Test cricket.
The Sussex bowler, now a certain starter on Thursday after overcoming the fitness issues that plagued his early international career, believes the experiment with day-night Tests and perennial issues over developing the pink ball have not had the desired affect.
‘It’s a bit gimmicky,’ he said. ‘They’re trying to get crowds in and change the Test game a bit but with the way England are playing I don’t think that needs to happen. We’re entertaining people as we are.
Cyclone Gabrielle has been making its way across New Zealand and has been described as ‘the worst storm to hit the country this century’
England skipper Ben Stokes will be hoping his team can get some kind of practice under their belt before playing the host country on Thursday
‘I’m certainly not a massive fan of pink balls. We’ve been trying to get them to swing this week but they’re very inconsistent and are just not a traditional cricket ball.
‘Every time I’ve played with one they feel different. Some have swung, some have seamed and some are harder. I got hit by a 65-over old ball in the warm-up the other day and it hurt more than a brand new one. It just felt like a rock.’
England have kept one eye on events in Nagpur over the weekend which saw Australia beaten within three days in the first Test by India. And Robinson, in particular, has been keeping a careful watch on a man who is to become a short-term county team-mate.
Steve Smith has signed a three-match deal to play for Sussex in May but Robinson insists the controversial move may benefit him more than a batter who is clearly trying to gain some extra preparation in English conditions ahead of this summer’s Ashes.
England bowler Ollie Robinson (left) believes a lack of training won’t impact the team
Robinson also labelled the use of pink balls in test cricket as ‘a bit gimmicky’
‘It’s going to be good to see him close up because we can use that to our advantage,’ said Robinson. ‘I’ve found him awkward to bowl to, as many have, so it will be good to watch him and see if I can learn any more ways of getting him out. Any hints or pointers I can get from him could be valuable for us.
‘I hope I’ll be bowling at him in the nets at Hove – if it’s a green spicy one I definitely will be!’