The first test match of the English summer starts at Lords on Thursday, with tourists New Zealand looking to build upon their unlikely draw in their home series in the winter.
England were disappointing in New Zealand and will want to put a marker down for the summer showpiece of the Ashes. Kevin Pietersen is not fit for this series and will be a big loss for England, who are otherwise at full strength. They will enter the series as favourites and will rightly be expected to utilise home conditions to put a frankly inferior New Zealand side to the sword.
Without Pietersen, the extra batting role will more than likely be given to Jonny Bairstow, who has started the county season in good form and will want to really make his mark on the International stage. In truth England are an inexperienced batting lineup but certainly have the talent to perform in this series.
Nick Compton excelled in New Zealand and cemented his place at the top of the order alongside Alastair Cook. Joe Root has got off to a flyer this summer, scoring huge hundreds for Yorkshire and the England Lions and he will be looking to continue that form in England’s number four position. Around the fresher members of the England batsmen the consistency of Cook, Trott, Bell and Prior provide a foundation which should see England score plenty of runs in this series.
In the bowling department, the return of Graeme Swann is a huge boost. He will play a crucial role as the spinner in a four man bowling attack. The only decision for Andy Flower and Alastair Cook to make is whether to go with Tim Bresnan or Steven Finn.
While Bresnan provides an extra strength to the batting department, Finn has to be the selection. England need to give themselves every chance of taking 20 wickets and Finn is the more aggressive, positive option. They need to back the top seven to get the runs necessary and leave the bowlers to take the wickets.
As for New Zealand, they surprised many with their performances against England in the winter and should push England hard. They have plenty of talent, led by the brilliant Brendan McCullum. He is supported by the likes of Ross Taylor, Martin Guptill, Kane Williamson and Hamish Rutherford, all of whom are capable of scoring big runs.
In truth however England should win these test matches fairly comfortably. They are all round a better side than the Black Caps and a better side than they showed in New Zealand. Anderson, Broad and Finn should be too hot for New Zealand to handle in English conditions and that should provide the basis for English success.
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