Second Test preview: New Zealand v England

England

Tourists second from the top of the ICC Test rankings will lock horns with hosts second from the bottom again, but the gap – five positions on paper – is apparently less vast.

Tourists second from the top of the ICC Test rankings will lock horns with hosts second from the bottom again, but the gap – five positions on paper – is evidently less vast.

Dunedin proved a lot: England always struggle in their first innings of an away series, perhaps Jonny Bairstow is the better pick, Stuart Broad is a waning force with both bat and ball and the leadership are on the back foot.

167 all-out at the University Oval made it five consecutive sub-200 scores at the start of a tour, Joe Root hasn't yet been able to exchange his limited-overs form for success in the Test arena, Broad needs to rethink his status as an all-rounder and captain Alastair Cook must get back on the offensive.

All, indeed, has to change in Wellington, where bouncier conditions are sure to aide the visiting seam attack – and the workload sustained by Neil Wagner, Tim Southee and Trent Boult last week demands further stamina this time.

Skipper Brendon McCullum has suggested the Black Caps will retain the same XI despite an apparent need to rotate one of their fast bowlers. Ian Butler is waiting in the wings, but this trio served them too well to be benched. Case in point: Australia rested Peter Siddle and Ben Hilfenhaus against the South Africans a couple of months ago and that backfired entirely.

The emergence of Bruce Martin and Hamish Rutherford, meanwhile, is a veritable two-fold godsend. Daniel Vettori's injury and a veritable revolving door at the top of the order have demanded stability: the new caps bring exactly that.

England have not been tested like this by low-key opposition in a long time, an indictment their coaches and players alike have been consistently quick to blame on their own inadequacies rather than New Zealand's superiority. Five days of tough cricket in biting Wellington weather, however, will be sure to separate the truth from the excuses.

<b>Key Men</b><br>A late addition to the squad, and then the XI, <b>Neil Wagner</b> took his opportunity with both hands. On a pitch expected to bring bounce and carry, he surely won't be the one tasked with bowling into the heavy wind.

<b>Alastair Cook</b> was admittedly poor in Dunedin, tarnishing an otherwise outstanding stretch of form. The Kiwis have readily conceded his is the wicket they want most. The belligerent right-hander, won't want to oblige.

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

<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 13/2 and England at 8/13 in the odds to win the second 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>Probable Teams</b><br><i>New Zealand:</i> Peter Fulton, Hamish Rutherford, Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor, Brendon McCullum (captain, wicketkeeper), BJ Watling, Dean Brownlie, Bruce Martin, Trent Boult, Tim Southee, Neil Wagner.

<i>England:</i> Nick Compton, Alastair Cook (captain), Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen, Ian Bell, Joe Root, Matthew Prior (wicketkeeper), Stuart Broad, Steven Finn, James Anderson, Monty Panesar.

<b>Dates:</b> 14-18 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 (02:30-04:30 GMT)<br><b>On-field umpires:</b> Asad Rauf and Rod Tucker<br><b>Third umpire:</b> Paul Reiffell<br><b>Match referee:</b> Roshan Mahanama

Latest