ODI series preview: England v New Zealand

England

Familiar foes amid a Future Tours Programme insistent on return series, the English and Black Caps will flank the end of May and the start of June with three more one-dayers.

Familiar foes amid a Future Tours Programme insistent on return series, the English and Black Caps will flank the end of May and the start of June with three more one-dayers.

This time, however, there is more meaning to the affair. With the Champions Trophy around the corner, where the teams will – incidentally – meet again in Group A, combinations need to be sorted out and tactics refined.

England, increasingly backed as tournament favourites, will need to prove themselves against a Black Caps unit eager to live up to their status as major ICC event darkhorses.

Added to the dynamic is the buildup to the Ashes, and while captain Alastair Cook will be quick to profess battling mindgames – and the Aussies – is not at the forefront of the agenda, the Kiwis will do well to rattle England's largely cluttered plate.

While the home team are a largely settled outfit, though one or two burgeoning names – Craig Kieswetter's nemisis Jos Buttler, for one – have enough to prove, New Zealand have personnel problems.

Injury to pace ace Trent Boult, wicketkeeper-batsman BJ Watling and all-rounder Andrew Ellis have necessitated change – and in come seamer Doug Bracewell, captain Brendon McCullum's potential return to duty behind the stumps and the need to counter the absence of Ellis.

McCullum has already confirmed former Australian ODI cricketer Luke Ronchi will open the batting, but who – the skipper, Ronchi or young Tom Latham? – will replace Watling as wicketkeeper remains in the balance.

So much of this series will present repercussions – positive and negative – for the respective Champions Trophy campaigns. Who hones their gameplans quickest, and most fittingly, will take a vital mental edge into next month's ODI showpiece across the United Kingdom.

<b>Key Men</b><br>Preferred to fellow seamers Jade Dernbach (since added to the squad as cover for Tim Bresnan) and Stuart Meaker, largely for his ability with the bat, now is the time for budding all-rounder <b>Chris Woakes</b> to truly set himself apart. On the fringes of Test selection for the time being, ODI favour is his to cement now.

<b>Luke Ronchi</b> will be thrust back into the international fold as an opening batsman – and possibly wicketkeeper. Both positions are very important in isolation, and in a dual role even more so. There was a reason he didn't gain more than a handful of matches for Australia, but perhaps this second lease will offer more.

<b>Last Five Head-To-Head Results</b><br>2013: Third ODI: England won by five wickets in Auckland<br>2013: Second ODI: England won by eight wickets in Napier<br>2013: First ODI: New Zealand won by three wickets in Hamilton<br>2009: Champions Trophy, Group B: New Zealand won by four wickets in Johannesburg<br>2008: Fifth ODI: New Zealand won by 51 runs in London

<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 2/5 and New Zealand 2/1 in the odds to win the series. Visit Sky Bet for the latest <a href='http://www.skybet.com/cricket' target='_blank' class='instorylink'><b>cricket betting</b></a>.

More <a href='http://about:blank' target='_blank' class='instorylink'><b>cricket bets</b></a> here.

<b>Squads</b><br><i>England:</i> Alastair Cook, James Anderson, Jonny Bairstow, Ian Bell, Ravi Bopara, Tim Bresnan, Stuart Broad, Jos Buttler, Steven Finn, Eoin Morgan, Joe Root, Graeme Swann, James Tredwell, Jonathan Trott, Chris Woakes, Jade Dernbach.

<i>New Zealand:</i> Brendon McCullum, Ian Butler, Doug Bracewell, Dean Brownlie, Peter Fulton, Mark Gillespie, Martin Guptill, Tom Latham, Bruce Martin, Hamish Rutherford, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor, Neil Wagner, Kane Williamson.

<b>Fixtures</b><br>First ODI: Lord's, 31 May<br>Second ODI: Southampton, 2 June<br>Third ODI: Nottingham, 5 June

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