Captain Joe Root wants England to put on a show for the Lord’s fans during the first Test against New Zealand.
|Venue: Lord’s Date: 2-6 June Time: 11:00 BST|
|Coverage: Test Match Special commentary, in-play video highlights and text commentary on the BBC Sport website and app|
Wednesday will see Root’s side play in front of a home crowd for the first time since 2019 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“As a kid growing up, going to those games meant a huge amount to me,” said Root.
“It will be great to have fans and that atmosphere back. To see people enjoying our sport again, live.”
The Lord’s capacity has been capped at 25%, meaning about 7,500 fans can be in attendance each day for the first international cricket of the summer.
Root confirmed that Gloucestershire’s James Bracey will make his Test debut, keeping wicket and batting at number seven.
In the absence of the injured Ben Stokes, Stuart Broad will fill-in as vice-captain – a contrast to last summer, when the pace bowler was left out of the first Test against West Indies.
With Broad certain to play, England now must decide on the rest of what will be a four-man attack.
They might opt to leave out Jack Leach and do without a specialist spinner. If Leach plays, there will be only two pace-bowling spots for James Anderson, Mark Wood, Olly Stone, Craig Overton and the uncapped Ollie Robinson.
As well as Stokes, Jofra Archer is sidelined after elbow surgery, while Jos Buttler is rested following his stint at the Indian Premier League.
Ashes planning ‘in the background’
England’s Test summer consists of two matches against New Zealand and five against India, the number-two and number-one ranked sides in the world respectively.
This winter, they attempt to regain the Ashes in Australia, a series that Root describes as “iconic, one that holds so much weight”.
However, Root was adamant that planning for the trip down under is “in the background”, with preparations for Australia best-served by beating New Zealand and India.
“There will constantly be conversations about Australia throughout this whole summer. There’s no getting away from that,” said 30-year-old Root.
“How we are best going to prepare for that is by performing well in these seven Test matches.”
Black Caps return to scene of World Cup agony
New Zealand follow the series against England with the World Test Championship final against India in Southampton.
With the exception of pace bowler Trent Boult, who does not arrive in the UK until Friday, they are at full strength.
They won their last Test in England to earn 1-1 draw in 2015, but were winless in their previous nine and have not tasted a series victory since 1999.
Not only that, but this week marks their first return to Lord’s since the astonishing 2019 World Cup final, when they were beaten by England on boundaries when the scores were tied after 50 overs and a super over.
Six members of the Black Caps’ squad played in the final, compared to only two from England – Root and Wood.
However, visiting captain Kane Williamson says his side have had no thoughts of “owing” some revenge to England.
“To have been involved in that match and some of the controversies that surrounded it, the drama, and all of the things that come with the fine margins that we saw in that game, you do look back fondly,” he said.
“There’s been some time since that day. It was a fantastic game that was decided by things largely out of both teams’ control.
“The guys are really excited to be back here. We’re looking forward to the next challenge.”