First Test preview: New Zealand v England

England

England and New Zealand haven't faced each other in a Test match since June 2008, and England have the lion's share of wins in the records, but the Black Caps aren't certain of losing this series, as some may expect.

England and New Zealand haven't faced each other in a Test match since June 2008, and England have the lion's share of wins in the records, but the Black Caps aren't certain of losing this series, as some may expect.

The tour has already seen the shorter formats played, where England won both the T20s and ODIs 2-1. The Kiwis are much weaker in Tests than they are in limited-overs cricket, but some good performances will have shored up their confidence.

Added to this, a New Zealand XI pulled off a superb three-wicket win in the a four-day warm-up in Queenstown, where the England players looked slightly rusty, aside from Ian Bell and Matt Prior.

Still, the hosts have to deal with fast bowler Doug Bracewell's lack of fitness, after he picked up a foot injury at a party on the weekend. Ian Butler has been called in as cover ahead of the match in Dunedin, and will compete with spinner Bruce Martin for Bracewell's place.

The conditions are supposed to be good for swing bowling, which will delight James Anderson, England's premier proponent of the moving cherry. He and Steve Finn, running off a shorter run-up, along with Stuart Broad, will look to rattle the fragile Kiwi top order.

As for the batting, England will hope their veterans Kevin Pietersen and Jonathan can come good, after a poor warm-up, and that Joe Root continues to show his talent and potential, while Nick Compton will be eager to show he deserves to open the innings.

<b>Key Men</b><br>The hosts have a real gem in wicketkeeper-batsman BJ Watling, who was one of the shining lights on the South African tour, and was also impressive in the warm-up match, scoring two unbeaten half centuries.

For England, they will be hoping Ian Bell's resurgence continues, after his comeback in India and then his century in the warm-up match. The diminutive batsman and Joe Root will be the ones to watch in the middle order.

<b>Last Five Head-To-Head Results</b><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<br>2008: First Test: Match drawn at Lord's<br>2008: Third Test: England won by 121 runs in Napier<br>2008: Second Test: England won by 126 runs in Wellington

<b>Prediction</b><br>Online betting firm <a href='http://www.skybet.com/cricket' target='_blank' class='instorylink'><b>Sky Bet</b></a> have New Zealand at 6/1 and England at 8/15 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>New Zealand:</i> Brendon McCullum, Trent Boult, Doug Bracewell, Dean Brownlie, Ian Butler, Peter Fulton, Tom Latham, Bruce Martin, Hamish Rutherford, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor, Neil Wagner, BJ Watling, Kane Williamson

<i>England:</i> Alastair Cook, James Anderson, Jonny Bairstow, Ian Bell, Stuart Broad, Nick Compton, Steve Finn, Graham Onions, Monty Panesar, Kevin Pietersen, Matt Prior, Joe Root, Graeme Swann, Jonathan Trott, Chris Woakes

<b>Dates:</b> 6-10 March<br><b>Morning session:</b> 10:30-12:30 (21:30-23:30 GMT)<br><b>Afternoon session:</b> 13:10-15:10 (00:10-02:10 GMT)<br><b>Evening session:</b> 15:30-17:30 (03:30-05:30 GMT)<br><b>On-field umpires:</b> Asad Rauf and Paul Reiffel<br><B>Third umpire:</B>Rod Tucker<BR><b>Match referee:</b> Roshan Mahanama

Latest