World Test Championship: Blackcaps can improve to finish England series on high, asserts Trent Boult

Even with the test series against England lost, Blackcaps seamer Trent Boult asserts the side still have "all to play for" in this week's finale at Leeds' Headingley.

With five-wicket defeats at Lord's and Trent Bridge in the first two tests, the Blackcaps have travelled north to Leeds, where they'll play the series finale against their hosts, starting on Thursday night (NZ time).

Unable to save the series, the Blackcaps are still playing for more than just pride and can still claim 12 points towards their World Test Championship title defence, although a series defeat to India, and draws against Bangladesh and South Africa mean their hopes of a second consecutive final are all but done. 

The Blackcaps are 2-0 down in the best of three series.
The Blackcaps are 2-0 down in the best of three series. Photo credit: Image - Photosport

Helping their chances of victory is the fact the Blackcaps have happy memories at Headingley. In 2015, Brendon McCullum's side travelled north, after a chastening defeat at Lord's, and squared the series with a 199-run victory, thanks to a superb 120 from BJ Watling.

After a break between tests, Boult hopes history will repeat itself this time around. 

"It's nice to refresh a little bit," he said. [It's] an amazing ground.

"Obviously the series has slipped away from us, but it's still all to play for here. Hopefully, we can finish this tour nicely."

For Boult, defeat in the second test came off the back of an individual performance to remember.

The Kiwi spearhead took eight wickets in the second test, including a five-wicket haul in the first innings, and overtook Sri Lanka's Muttiah Muralitharan for the most test runs batting at No.11.

But while individual successes would please most players, Boult knows they mean next to nothing in the context of the team's defeat.

Tom Latham and Tim Southee against England.
Tom Latham and Tim Southee against England. Photo credit: Image - Getty Images

"You always want to take wickets and bowl as best as you can, but it's a hard one, when we're not on the right end of the result," he added.

"There's been some good learnings [sic] from the outings in both games to be honest. Cracking tests to be fair, with some good totals chased down. 

"If we're completely honest with ourselves, I think we could say we can be a lot better in a couple of areas. It's nice to have another opportunity here in a couple of days' time. 

"Hopefully, we can play the way we know we can."

The team will be boosted by the return of Devon Conway and Michael Bracewell, both of whom have recovered from COVID-19 between tests, while Kane Williamson is also back, after missing the Nottigham defeat.

"Everyone's fit and healthy, and looking to put out a great performance," Boult added. "It's not easy, but it's the way the world is moving at the moment. 

"Everyone is happy and healthy, and looking forward to the next game."

New Zealand are currently seventh on the World Test Championship ladder for the 2021-23 cycle, with only 29.17 percent of points won. 

The top two spots, needed to reach the final, are held by Australia and South Africa on 75 and 71.43 percent respectively.