The first Test between New Zealand and England is on February 16; however, New Zealand is currently struggling with its preparations. Because of Cyclone Gabrielle, five players from their 14-man squad and three support staff have not arrived yet at Mount Maunganui.
Cyclone Gabrielle hit the North Island on Monday and cut power to thousands of homes. As a result, the players were unable to link up with the squad for a training camp in Tauranga ahead of the series opener in Mount Maunganui starting Thursday.
What are the Players and Teams Doing?
The stranded players are Tom Blundell, Henry Nicholls, Matt Henry, Will Young, and Blair Tickner. Among the players hindered by the cyclone, paceman Blair Tickner and opener Will Young resorted to driving themselves up from Napier, four hours south of Tauranga. Due to flight cancellation, Batsman Henry Nicholls isn’t expected to arrive in Tauranga until Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Wicketkeeper Tom Blundell remained in Wellington after the birth of his second child, while paceman Matt Henry was in Christchurch awaiting the birth of his first.
Though Mount Maunganui has not been affected as badly by the cyclone, the weather forced both teams to train in the Bay Oval Indoor Grass Training Facility. In addition, New Zealand had to shift its plans for evening training forward due to worsening winds.
Response to the Stranded Players
In an interview with head coach Gary Stead, he stated that they are still players arriving, and the cyclone has caused an impact on travel plans. He said, “It’s disappointing the weather the way it is, but there’s a lot of people up at the top of the North Island who is a lot worse off than us.”
“Originally, we were planning to have an evening session training but we managed to get in touch earlier. We were just worried that the winds might get up to such a point that we wouldn’t be able to train later on,” he added.
Flight and Weather Status
Currently, All regional flights in and out of Tauranga (which services Mount Maunganui), Hamilton, and Taupo are cancelled until Tuesday. Aside from this, there is a forecast for a break in the rain on Wednesday, further disruptions are expected when the day-night Test gets underway on Thursday. As a result, the Powhiri (a Maori welcoming ceremony) scheduled for February 14 has been canceled.
New Zealand and England Matches
While the player and team status have been confirmed, there are no details on how the Test series will be affected by the weather situation. Before Cyclone Gabrielle hit, New Zealand and England were set to have the first Test from February 16 to 20. The first test will be a pink ball one, only the second hosted by New Zealand.
The second one will be on February 24 until February 28. Following the Test series, New Zealand will be having a Test series against Sri Lanka starting on March 9. England, meanwhile, will be having an ODI series against Bangladesh starting March 1.