England will face a very different New Zealand side, from the one they triumphed 2-0 over back in 2013. It was the last time the Kiwi’s lost in eight test series following an amazing transformation led by dynamic skipper Brendon McCullum.
It is testimony to the ICC future tours fixed programme, that this two test series should have been a damn site longer, given New Zealand now sit two places above England in the current test rankings, such has been the resurgence of this Kiwi side. We have been here before of course, when England and South Africa met on these shores not so long ago as 1v2 in the rankings, and we had a ridiculous short three test series.
New Zealand have re-invented themselves over the past couple of years, indeed even before that series loss in 2013, they should have beaten England on their home soil, but for a rear guard action from Matt Prior and the tail, batting out for a draw in Auckland.
The signs then, were all good for New Zealand cricket and they have become so difficult to beat, both home and away. The fact their most promising players are just flying in from the current IPL season, will not effect them, McCullum seems to have a way of galvanizing his men, like no other current International captain.
Which of course brings us to the under pressure England captain, Alastair Cook. He faces a real defining summer ahead of him, get things right against New Zealand, and the momentum can have a massive impact on the upcoming Ashes series. Is it really a chance to put all the off field upheaval behind him?
Cook is the last man standing it would seem, from what has been numerous culls at ECB headquarters, the head coach, the managing director, not to mention arguably the best batsman as well as other prominent figures, have all bitten the dust since the last Ashes debacle, yet even after losing the ODI captaincy, Cook remains in his post as head boy of the test team.
A poor summer, will no doubt lead to a further change, so Cook has to get this right from the off, and he can do no worse, than look at how forward thinking his opposite number runs the show, in the opening two tests of this summer.
With such a fragile looking batting order, following the drawn series in the West Indies, the likes of Tim Southee and Trent Boult will be looking forward to inflicting more pain on the England side, Southee in particular will want a repeat of his quite outstanding performance in the World Cup against England, where he blew away England’s batting from the middle section downwards.
On the flip side, James Anderson looked back to his best out in the Windies, so the bowling departments look to be where the short series should be won or lost. It guarantees we should get a winner either way, come the middle of June.
England have a lot to prove, as they aim to climb back up those rankings, and put on a good show for their suffering public, can they finally put to bed all the talk of Pietersen, or are those tweets calling for his recall, going to grow louder over the upcoming months.
I’ll sit on the fence in terms of predicting a result, 1-1 would be my guess if you asked me right now to call this, McCullum and his men will be a stern test first up this summer.