New Zealand series has huge significance for England players targeting place in Champions Trophy

Kevin Pietersen return has others fighting to retain their place


This tour of New Zealand is in effect a series of final auditions in what is a big year for English cricket, perhaps its biggest. Those players who wish to be part of it must strut their stuff here.

Two Ashes series are being played and before them the Champions Trophy will be staged at home in June. Play badly in the next month and aspirations may recede to the point of no return, play well and the selectors’ hands will be forced.

The one-day series has assumed a significance which defeat in the first match did nothing to assuage and England’s long and rigorous training session before the second reinforced the notion that much is at stake. After this there are no more chances to impress.

Although the Ashes will grab most of the attention because of history and the enduring allure of Test cricket, the Champions Trophy, staged at three grounds over 18 days, represents a promising chance for England to win an ICC one-day competition at the 18th attempt.

England won the World Twenty20 in 2010 (and defended the title woefully last year) but they have never prevailed in a competition involving the longer limited overs format. After the 3-2 defeat in India last month, it was important for them to use the New Zealand leg of the tour effectively not merely to try to win but to prepare for the summer.

The absence of Kevin Pietersen, who has been resting, complicates matters. Along with four other players – Matt Prior, Nick Compton, Monty Panesar and Graham Onions – he will arrive for the Test leg of the tour at the weekend. But of those only Pietersen will play in the Champions Trophy, which means somebody from the present squad must make way for him.

It may be that Joe Root is the favourite to step aside because the changed fielding restrictions make it more possible for Pietersen to return to his old position at No 4. But Jonathan Trott, at 3, is vulnerable and there is a growing call for Eoin Morgan to bat higher up the order than No 5 despite his preference for that spot.

New Zealand have the potential to defy their best intentions. The country at large seems hardly to be aware that there is an international series taking place. The domestic rugby union season starts at the weekend and that will be that for meaningful cricket watching.

There remains a tranquil quality to the small towns here which can readily transfer itself to cricketers. It might explain why England, going into the Napier match, had won only 13 of the 35 one-day internationals they had played here.

But there is a relaxed attitude in the squad which was not conspicuously present in India. Perhaps the surroundings do it. In India, where England have spent five months of the last two years, they can walk out of a hotel and be greeted by several different manifestations of abject poverty intermingled with a mass of people.

In New Zealand, there are empty spaces and clear light. The journey between Hamilton and Napier the other day was through almost 200 miles of largely unpopulated and spectacular countryside.

At its end, this art deco seaside town exudes small town affability and while it would be pushing it to suggest that the Sunken Gardens of Napier, on the seafront, are in Hanging Gardens of Babylon wonders of the world category, they form part of a municipal delight.

Jimmy Anderson at last spoke about his pride in becoming England’s leading wicket-taker in all international cricket and his determination to prolong his career, helped by England’s rotation policy. It was in New Zealand five years ago where his displaced Matthew Hoggard in the test side and began the second crucial phase of his England career.

“You’ve got guys who are knocking on the door and I want to play until I’m 39 or 40 and put that record well away from anyone else,” he said. It is the effect of New Zealand.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map