New Zealand coach Mike Hesson fires warning to England

Black Caps' arrival this week has been hardly noticed in a summer dominated by the Ashes

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The Independent Online

New Zealand coach Mike Hesson has warned England that his side intend to play an early-season spoiler's role when their two-Test series begins later this month.

In a summer that will be dominated by the Ashes, the Black Caps' arrival this week has been hardly noticed.

The tourists are initially without two of their key men - skipper Brendon McCullum and Ross Taylor remain on Indian Premier League duty for another week - but Hesson is determined not to let his side become the "entree" to the arrival of their fellow Antipodeans.

"These are two hugely important Test matches for us," Hesson told reporters.

"We're making progress as a Test side and certainly won't like to be the entree for the main course later in the season.

"England's record in England in recent times has been outstanding. It's a tough place to tour and we know that we've got to be on the top of our game."

England were given plenty of warning not to underestimate the current New Zealand team during the reverse tour in March.

Only the final-day heroics of Matt Prior denied the Kiwis a rare Test series win over England after they had controlled the third Test in Auckland.

New Zeland fell agonisingly one-wicket short of victory with centurion Prior and last-man Monty Panesar keeping out the last 19 balls.

"I've tried to forget about that game," Hesson said.

"We felt we dominated the Test but what a great game it was. These two Tests are going to be tough but we have got to stick to what we do well and what we did well in March in New Zealand.

"Playing in England is the pinnacle and the guys are very excited."

New Zealand will begin their preparations with a three-day game against Derbyshire starting on Saturday.

McCullum and Taylor are then due to arrive in time for the final warm-up contest against the England Lions next week, with the Test opener starting at Lord's on May 16.

While the late arrival of two of the team's main performers and leaders could be perceived as a less than ideal way to kick-off a tour, Hesson believes it could be a blessing in disguise.

"I'm actually quite happy with it because with a squad of 15 it's quite hard to get everyone a game," he said.

"Those guys, although they haven't been playing a lot, they have been training a lot. To get our whole squad involved in those two warm-up games is critical for us.

"In previous tours we haven't even had any warm-up matches so two is huge. There will be no complaints from us about being underdone."

Kane Williamson will stand in as captain in Derby this week and reiterated Hesson's assertions that any Ashes talk would not affect his side's thoughts.

"We've got nothing to do with the Ashes," he said.

"We haven't looked at it in any way and we're targeting our preparation ahead of the first Test.

"They're one of the best bowling attacks in the world, especially in these conditions. Our team culture is really strong at the moment and we're an improving side."