Cricket: England coach Brendon McCullum confident Tim Southee will succeed as Blackcaps' new test captain

Tim Southee's appointment as the Blackcaps' test captain is a positive step former skipper Brendon McCullum can get behind, as the two prepare to square off over the coming weeks.

Southee, 34, took over as Blackcaps captain in late 2022 after Kane Williamson's resignation, and opened his reign with a 0-0 series draw.

However, on both occasions, the Blackcaps were denied victories by dying light, and could just have easily found themselves with a 2-0 scoreline.

But now Southee and the Blackcaps are preparing for their next challenge, up against a familiar face in McCullum's England.

Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum.
Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum. Photo credit: Getty Images

Led by all-rounder Ben Stokes, England will face the Blackcaps in two tests, starting on February 16 at Mt Maunganui.

Now coach of the opposition, McCullum will have a better idea than most of what to expect from Southee, after captaining him for three years as a player.

And with Southee, McCullum and Stokes all being cut from the same attack-minded cloth, the two-test series won't lack excitement over the coming weeks.

"I know him very well," McCullum said of Southee. "I think the appointment was a really good one from New Zealand Cricket.

"He's a cricketer in the back end of his career who's played an immense role within New Zealand cricket for a last while and a real key part of the change from where it was, to where it is now.

"For him to take on the leadership role, with Kane (Williamson) still within the ranks is a significant positive for the New Zealand side.

"I thought they played some good cricket in Pakistan as well, in those challenging conditions and could have easily nabbed that series too.

"We know they're going to be very good in those conditions. Tim will be creative - as he always is - and I look forward to seeing how we're going to respond to that."

As for what "Southeeball" might look like, McCullum admits his own uncertainty over what his former charge will bring to the table - but knows the Blackcaps won't die wondering under his tutelage.

"Tim's a cricketer who plays with a full heart and he'll rally those guys around him. He's not afraid to have a crack.

"It could be quite good with both skippers playing in a similar mould."

Tim Southee.
Tim Southee. Photo credit: Getty Images

For Southee and the Blackcaps, though, facing this England side is a daunting task.

Under McCullum and Stokes, England have won nine of 10 test matches, including a 3-0 sweep over the Blackcaps last winter.

Playing an attacking style of cricket that's been coined as "Bazball" - against their coach's wishes - England have begun to reshape how test cricket is played.

Against Pakistan at the end of 2022, England plundered a record 506 runs in a single day at a scoring rate of more than 6.7 per over, setting the tone for a remarkable 3-0 series sweep.

That scoring pattern was only a sign of what's to come in Aotearoa as well, after the tourists plundered 465 runs in less than 70 overs on the opening day of their tour match against a New Zealand XI in Hamilton, as warm-up to face the Blackcaps.

That innings saw former skipper Joe Root reverse lap a ball over third man in the opening overs of the day, while Harry Brook belted five consecutive sixes against young spinner Adithya Ashok on his way to a 71-ball 97 runs.

But McCullum insists while aggression is his modus operandi, the results his players are producing comes down to their own ability and buy-in.

"There's nothing intentional about it, the boys just play how they want to play," he said.

"From our point of view, it's just [about] giving them the most amount of freedom and flexibility to do what they want to do.

"All we're trying to encourage from a batting point of view is [to] identify when the time is to absorb pressure, and when the time is to be brave enough to put pressure back on the opposition.

"If you're able to do that, and get out doing it, so be it. 

"But from a coaching point of view, it's exciting to watch the talent these guys have got. 

"Some of the shots and skills they possess is pretty insane. We sit back in awe at times at how good these guys can be.

"Hopefully we can see them continue to develop over the next little while."