While Zimbabwe are the only team the Kiwis have beaten in a Test series in the past four years, New Zealand themselves are the only team England have defeated in the last three.
'When you look at the latest ratings we are about level, which I think is fair enough given the results,' their captain, Ken Rutherford, said. New Zealand, at six, are actually ahead of England but if they are still there at the end of the series Ray Illingworth's selector's axe will be whirling like a combine harvester.
With Chris Cairns injured and Andrew Jones having retired from international cricket, the tourists have just four players with any serious Test experience. Of those, Martin Crowe has not played a first-class match since November due to a chronic knee injury that has since required two operations and Danny Morrison, the only other player with county experience, sees a specialist today after suffering a groin injury in Sharjah last week.
That leaves Mark Greatbatch, who failed to reach 50 in seven Tests during the winter and, admitted the cricket manager Geoff Howarth, 'is lucky to be here', and the phlegmatic Rutherford said: 'I am sure we will be competitive. We have a lot of mental and physical toughness. The sides are evenly matched and it will depend on whose bowling comes through.'
New Zealand's two previous Test wins here (in 37 matches) were primarily due to the bowling of Richard Hadlee, which makes it seem a bit unfair that this time his lookalike will be playing against them.
Andy Caddick, who left his native country in a huff after being left out of a junior national side, would probably be leading the New Zealand attack had he stayed. 'He slipped through the net and given our lack of depth we can ill afford to lose players like him,' Rutherford said. 'But full credit to him, he took a punt and came through. I have a British passport and was thinking about doing the same when I was picked for the Test side.'
Instead New Zealand have bought Heath Davis, an untried, half-Maori fast bowler who is alleged to be as quick as Devon Malcolm. His most useful role, given a middle-name (Te-Ihi-O-Te-Rangi) that translates sky-god, could be as rainmaker.
NEW ZEALAND TOUR PARTY: K R Rutherford (capt), G R Larsen (vice-capt), B R Hartland, B A Pocock, B A Young, M D Crowe, M J Greatbatch, S P Fleming, S A Thomson, A C Parore (wkt), M N Hart, C Pringle, S B Doull, D K Morrison, D J Nash, H T Davis.
ITINERARY: 29 April England Amateur XI (Southgate); 1 May Duchess of Norfolk's XI (Arundel); 2 Surrey (The Oval); 4-6 Worcestershire (Worcester); 7-9 Somerset (Taunton); 12-14 v Middlesex (Lord's); 15 Northamptonshire (Northampton); 17: Leicestershire (Leicester); 19 FIRST TEXACO TROPHY INTERNATIONAL (Edgbaston); 21 SECOND TEXACO TROPHY INTERNATIONAL (Lord's); 28-30 Essex (Chelmsford); 2-6 June FIRST TEST (Trent Bridge); 11-13 Gloucestershire (Bristol); 16-20 SECOND TEST (Lord's); 22-24 Combined Universities (Fenner's); 25-27 Derbyshire (Derby); 30-July 5 THIRD TEST (Old Trafford) (rest day 3 July); 8 Ireland (TBA); 10 Ireland (Dublin).Reuse content