Tom Latham sets sights on WTC final as NZ shift focus after historic series win

First series win in England since 1999 was firm focus, says vice-captain

Matt Roller
Matt Roller
Tom Latham lifts the trophy after New Zealand won the series against England, England vs New Zealand, 2nd Test, Birmingham, 4th day, June 13, 2021

New Zealand players with the trophy after clinching the series against England  •  Michael Steele/Getty Images

New Zealand's series win in England is their first since 1999 and they have an opportunity to add the inaugural World Test Championship title next week when they play India at the Ageas Bowl.
Which is the bigger prize? "Both sounds pretty good," Tom Latham, their vice-captain, grinned after leading them to victory at Edgbaston. "From our point of view, it was about coming here and focusing on these first two Test matches against England and trying to continue doing what we've been doing over a couple of years now. Now that we've ticked them off, it's important that our focus shifts to India in a couple of days.
"It's a fantastic achievement from the group. I think it's important that we celebrate with each other. It hasn't been done since '99. For us to come here as a group, it was about trying to play our brand of cricket and I thought we did that really well over the four days and got our rewards at the end."
While New Zealand's recent record against England has been excellent - they have won four and drawn three of their last seven Tests against them, dating back to 2015 - their away record against the big three of India, England and Australia had been poor since that 1999 triumph, with just two victories in their previous 39 attempts. Latham said that his memories of seeing teams struggle on previous tours made the victory even better.
"I certainly remember staying up late, watching teams come over to England and playing Test cricket - at Lord's, and all these iconic grounds. For us to come here and put a performance on the board that was true to us was really important.
"It was about trying to do what we do really well and I thought we did. [It's] well documented that '99 was the last time we'd won here and we have been here a couple of times in recent years and haven't quite got the rewards. It's certainly an achievement that's worth celebrating."
New Zealand's series win also took them back to No. 1 in the ICC's Test rankings, leapfrogging India, their upcoming opponents. They reached the summit for the first time earlier this year after beating Pakistan, before India nudged past them following their 3-1 series win against England in March.
They made six changes from the team that drew at Lord's, with Kane Williamson, BJ Watling, and Mitchell Santner suffering elbow, back and finger niggles respectively, and Colin de Grandhomme, Tim Southee and Kyle Jamieson all rested ahead of the main event.
Latham said that New Zealand expect to have a clean bill of health leading into that final, and paid tribute to the strength in depth within the squad.
"It was amazing from a personnel change of six guys. That hasn't happened for a long time in this group and it has been a hard team to crack into. For all those guys to get that opportunity - Will Young, Matt Henry, Ajaz Patel - was fantastic. They performed their roles really well.
"[Watling and Williamson] are travelling reasonably well. It was important for them to get a little bit of rest in order to be fully fit heading into next week. Fingers crossed we'll have a fully-fit squad."
As for the challenge India will present, Latham said that their performances on their tour of England in 2018 - albeit in a 4-1 series defeat - demonstrated that they would be tough to beat at the Ageas Bowl.
"They've got a fantastic set of bowlers, [and] a lot of quality batsmen that have scored runs in different conditions all round the world. They were over here a few years ago and played really well, so we know we'll have to play well to beat them.
"Our focus will shift to them in a couple of days. The preparation has been great but it's important that we do shift our focus and adapt to a completely different side."

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98