First Test preview: England v New Zealand
The first Test between England and New Zealand at Lord's promises to be an interesting affair, with the hosts eager to right the relative embarrassment suffered in the Antipodes.
The first of two Tests between England and New Zealand at Lord's promises to be an interesting affair, with the hosts eager to right the relative embarrassment suffered in the Antipodes, while the Black Caps want to show it wasn't a fluke.
The three-game series in New Zealand in March ended in a nil nil draw, and the hard-fighting Kiwis were unlucky not to win it, and would probably have done so had rain not thwarted a few days of the series.
Peter Fulton was a star for the hosts then, scoring two centuries in the third Test, and he will be keen to follow that up with some more big knocks. It will be vital for the fragile line up to fire more collectively too, requiring Ross Taylor and Kane Williamson to come to the party.
The Black Caps bowling should be strong too, with Tim Southee declared fit for the encounter after a foot injury scare during the tour match at Grace Road. Back home they used three pacemen in all the games, though they could add a fourth here.
England also have to think about their bowling configuration now that spinner Graeme Swann has recovered from his elbow surgery. A four-man pace attack has not been ruled out though, so Tim Bresnan, also fit again, could play alongside Finn, Broad and Anderson.
England's batting line up is still missing Kevin Pietersen as he has not yet recovered from deep bone bruising in his knee, so Jonny Bairstow will keep his place in the middle order. Joe Root and Nick Compton should also be allowed to continue their young careers.
All that being said, England are the favourites for this game, given their ranking superiority and the mauling they got from all corners over the draws in the previous series. They will be fighting harder than ever to avoid a home defeat.
A match at the Home of Cricket is always an exciting prospect, and the sides will hope the weather plays along as it's scheduled to be cloudy all five days, with rain threatening for Sunday.
<b>Key Men</b><br>For England, the man of the hour is Yorkshire's finest, Joe Root. The young batsman is inching towards 1000 runs this year, and scored a big century against the New Zealanders in the tour match, so his eye is fully in.
The Black Caps will surely be looking to skipper Brendon McCullum to shine, given he has played here before and did well with a near-century. He will also be keen to show that the captaincy has not negatively affected his batting.
<b>Last Five Head-To-Head Results</b><br>2013: Third Test: Match drawn in Auckland<br>2013: Second Test: Match drawn in Wellington<br>2013: First Test: Match drawn in Dunedin<br>2008: Third Test England won by an innings and nine runs in Nottingham<br>2008: Second Test: England won by six wickets in Manchester
<b>Prediction</b><br>Online betting firm <a href='http://www.skybet.com/cricket' target='_blank' class='instorylink'><b>Sky Bet</b></a> have England at 4/5 and New Zealand at 10/1 in the odds to win the first Test. Visit Sky Bet for the latest cricket <a href='http://www.skybet.com/cricket' target='_blank' class='instorylink'><b>betting</b></a>.
More <a href='http://https://twitter.com/bet365' target='_blank' class='instorylink'><b>cricket bets here.</b></a>
<b>Squads</b><br><i>England:</i> Alastair Cook, James Anderson, Jonny Bairstow, Ian Bell, Tim Bresnan, Stuart Broad, Nick Compton, Steve Finn, Matt Prior, Joe Root, Graeme Swann, Jonathan Trott.
<i>New Zealand:</i> Brendon McCullum, Trent Boult, Doug Bracewell, Dean Brownlie, Peter Fulton, Martin Guptill, Mark Gillespie, Tom Latham, Bruce Martin, Hamish Rutherford, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor, Neil Wagner, BJ Watling, Kane Williamson.
<b>Dates:</b> 16-20 May<br><b>Morning session:</b> 11:00-13:00 (10:00-12:00 GMT)<br><b>Afternoon session:</b> 13:40-15:40 (12:40-14:40 GMT)<br><b>Evening session:</b> 16:00-18:00 (15:00-17:00 GMT)<br><b>On-field umpires:</b> Aleem Dar and Steve Davis<br><b>Third umpire:</b> Marais Erasmus<br><b>Match referee:</b> David Boon
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