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Preview: England vs. New Zealand Third Test - prediction, team news, series so far

Sports Mole previews the Third Test between England and New Zealand at Headingley, including predictions, team news and a sum-up of the series so far.

Ben Stokes's reign as England captain will continue at Headingley on Thursday for the third and final Test against New Zealand.

Buoyed by last week's dramatic victory over the Black Caps, England will be looking to end the series with another memorable triumph.

Match preview

England batsman Jonny Bairstow celebrates hitting a century against New Zealand on June 14, 2022.© Reuters

Having chased down an almost unattainable target of 299 to clinch victory on the final day of the second test, England will have the chance to secure a series whitewash when they reconvene with New Zealand on Thursday.

The hosts boast an unassailable 2-0 lead heading into the final meeting at Headingley, with what is already England's first Test victory over New Zealand since 2013.

Understandably, the series win has earned England plenty of plaudits, not least because it has come so early in the premiership of newly appointed head coach, Brendon McCullum.

Renowned for his success as a former New Zealand captain, McCullum has succeeded in transferring the fearlessness from his playing days over into his role as coach.

Those credentials were on display during the fourth innings at Trent Bridge last week, where a gutsy England side, unnerved by the total their opponents had posted, set about chasing down the 299 runs needed for victory.

At the heart of the demolition was Jonny Bairstow, whose much-maligned performances for England with the red ball had left many questioning his continued selection for the test side.

Hitting the second-fastest century in English Test cricket history, falling just one ball short of Gilbert Jessop's 120-year-old record, Bairstow's fireworks at the crease helped accelerate England's stuttering innings.

Ben Stokes congratulates Jonny Bairstow after hitting 136 runs versus New Zealand on June 14, 2022.© Reuters

It came at a welcome time for Bairstow, who had managed just 25 runs from the previous three innings across the two tests, before racking up an irresistible 136 from 92 balls.

When Bairstow eventually edged one through to wicket-keeper Tom Blundell, the damage for New Zealand was already done, as Stokes and Ben Foakes saw off the remaining 27 runs needed to secure victory.

McCullum, who holds the record for the fastest century in Test cricket himself, was praised for the clear mentality shift he has brought about to this England side.

Just 12 months prior, an England team comprised of near-enough the same players, refused to chase down a second-innings total of 273 during the first test against New Zealand at Lord's, instead settling for a draw.

Fast forward one year and such an approach was not even on the table for England, who now head into the final test filled with renewed optimism.

As World Test champions, the defeat against an England side who were ranked second-bottom heading into this series should be considered a failure for New Zealand.

However, mitigating circumstances denied New Zealand from properly challenging at Trent Bridge, with an injury to Kyle Jamieson preventing him from bowling in the second innings, and a positive COVID-19 result ruling captain Kane Williamson out from the off.

England bowler Matthew Potts celebrates taking the wicket of New Zealand batsman Kane Williamson on June 2, 2022.© Reuters

Much to the relief of the tourists, Williamson is set to return to the fold ahead of the Headingley match, as New Zealand look to avoid a humbling 3-0 series defeat.

For England, Thursday's test represents the first international cricket match to be held at Headingley since the fallout from the Yorkshire County Cricket Club racism scandal, which saw former Yorkshire cricketer Azeem Rafiq accuse the club of institutionalised racism.

The ECB subsequently suspended Yorkshire CCC from hosting international matches - a decision which would later be overturned in February, after the ECB was satisfied the club had met certain administrative conditions.

A proud cricketing county, Yorkshire will no doubt offer a warm welcome to McCullum and Stokes's rejuvenated England side, as they look to finish the first test of the summer on a winning high.

Team News

England batsman Joe Root celebrates hitting a century and reaching 10,000 Test runs against New Zealand on June 5, 2022.© Reuters

With the series already wrapped up, England are expected to rotate the side ahead of the third Test.

Called up to the Test squad for the first time, Jamie Overton will be hoping to earn a maiden cap on Thursday, with twin brother Craig Overton also in the 14-man squad.

There could be a rest on the cards for one of, if not both, James Anderson and Stuart Broad, with the veteran pair's fitness looking to be maintained ahead of a busy summer schedule.

Captain Stokes and usual stalwart Joe Root will no doubt retain their positions, with opening pair Alex Lees and Zak Crawley also unlikely to face rotation.

Enjoying his summer so far, Foakes will be handed the gloves once more, with the England wicket keeper looking to capitalise on his first Test half-century since November 2018, after a splendid first-innings knock at Trent Bridge.

Similarly, Ollie Pope has also found home in this new-look England side, with the Surrey batsman enjoying his cricket at number three in the order.

As for New Zealand, the return of captain Williamson will provide a huge confidence boost for a Black Caps side that struggled with their tactics at times during the second test.

It is likely to be Williamson's last match for New Zealand until mid-August, with the Black Caps' short format captain electing to sit out the upcoming white-ball clashes with Ireland, Scotland and the Netherlands.

New Zealand's Tim Southee congratulates Devon Conway during the clash with England on June 3, 2021© Reuters

Likewise, Devon Conway, Tim Southee and Trent Boult will all miss the short format series, but the trio are expected to be involved against England at Headingley.

One of the bright sparks in an otherwise dismal tour so far for New Zealand has been the performances of Daryl Mitchell, who enters the final Test with two centuries already to his name.

Mitchell fell 10 runs short of a famous double hundred in the Trent Bridge test, with the right-handed batsman likely to cause England even more problems in the middle order.

Despite testing positive for COVID-19 himself, Michael Bracewell is expected to be involved for New Zealand, having been handed his debut in the second Test.

England squad: Ben Stokes (c), James Anderson, Jonny Bairstow, Stuart Broad, Harry Brook, Zak Crawley, Ben Foakes (wk), Jack Leach, Alex Lees, Craig Overton, Jamie Overton, Matthew Potts, Ollie Pope, Joe Root

New Zealand squad: Kane Williamson (c), Trent Boult, Tom Blundell (wk), Michael Bracewell, Devon Conway, Jacob Duffy, Cameron Fletcher, Matt Henry, Tom Latham, Daryl Mitchell, Henry Nicholls, Ajaz Patel, Rachin Ravindra, Hamish Rutherford, Tim Southee, Blair Tickner, Neil Wagner, Will Young

Series so far

First test at Lord's:
NZ 132 & 285
ENG 141 & 279-5
ENG won by 5 wickets

Second test at Trent Bridge:
NZ 553 & 284
ENG 539 & 299-5
ENG won by 5 wickets

SM words green background

We say: Draw

With a rotated England side expected to feature, it is unlikely the Headingley test will hold the same drama as the previous two from this series already.

Couple that with a gloomy weather forecast predicted over the weekend in Leeds, a draw appears the most likely result heading into the final Test between England and New Zealand.

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New Zealand celebrate taking an England wicket on June 2, 2022.
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