England are strong favourites to come out on top in this three Test series. The tourists are second in the Test rankings, while the Black Caps are ranked a lowly eighth.
England also come into the series in good Test form having impressively won a Test series in India for the first time in 28 years the last time they played this format with an historic 2-1 series win. A warm-up defeat aside, England will also be boosted by their success so far on the New Zealand tour with 2-1 series victories in the T20s and the ODIs, and they have not lost a Test series against New Zealand since a surprise 2-1 home defeat in 1999.
Since then England drew 1-1 in New Zealand in 2002, won 3-0 at home in 2004, won 2-1 in New Zealand in 2008 and won 2-0 at home in 2008. New Zealand have not won a Test series at home to England since a 1-0 success in 1986.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Kane Williamson: A classy batsman who has already shown he has the right temperament for international cricket. The 22-year-old has been batting in the crucial number three position for the Black Caps, and has already shown his quality to England with his excellent 74 in the first ODI. The 22-year-old made his mark on his Test debut against India in Ahmedabad in November 2010, scoring 131 at number six. Williamson looks to have a promising future ahead of him in international cricket. He can also bowl some handy off-breaks and has eight Test wickets to his name.
Ross Taylor: The best batsmen in the New Zealand team. The 28-year-old scored 120 against England in Hamilton in the 2008 series and 154 not out against England at Old Trafford in the return series later that year. He has an impressive Test average of 43.57 and seems to have been unaffected by his unceremonious sacking as captain after the Sri Lanka tour, as he scored an impressive 100 in the second ODI against England recently. After opting to miss the recent tour of South Africa Dunedin will be Taylor’s first Test match since losing the captaincy, but he is expected to continue to receive plenty of support from the New Zealand public, who believe that he was treated shabbily by coach Mike Hesson and the New Zealand Cricket Board.
Brendon McCullum: A destructive batsmen who on his day can take the game away from the opposition. The recently appointed New Zealand captain has been opening the batting in Test cricket for the Black Caps, but he is set to come in at number five this series and that could well suit his game. This is because McCullum will no longer have to face the new ball and if the top four can lay a solid platform the skipper will be able to bat against a tiring England attack and could make them pay. He also comes into the Test series in good form after scores of 10, 74 and 26 in the T20s and 69 not out, 74 and 79 in the ODIs. While the 31-year-old may be better suited to ODIs and T20s, he is still more than capable of scoring quick runs and hurting England.
Doug Bracewell: A wholehearted young cricketer who has shown plenty of promise with the ball. Bracewell has taken 46 wickets from his first 15 Tests, and bowled the Black Caps to a shock seven-run Test victory against Australia in Hobart in December 2011 with superb figures of 6-40 in the Australian’s second innings. While England will no doubt have done their research on Bracewell, they are yet to face him on this tour and Bracewell could use this to his advantage and cause England’s batsmen some problems. The 22-year-old did not play in any of the T20s or ODIs and will be raring to go for this series if he can overcome a foot injury sustained when clearing up at a house party.
Tim Southee: Recently returned from a thumb injury in the one-day series. Southee made his Test debut against England in Napier when they last toured New Zealand in 2008, and claimed impressive figures of 5-55 in England’s first innings. He helped bowl New Zealand to victory in his last Test match, against Sri Lanka in Colombo, taking 5-62 in Sri Lanka’s first innings and 3-58 in their second innings as the Black Caps pulled off a surprise 167-run victory. The 24-year-old also took four wickets in the first Test of that series, as he finished that series with an impressive 12 wickets from two Tests at a superb average of 13.83.
Alastair Cook: Captain Cook was in imperious form in India where he scored 562 runs, including three hundreds, at an average of 80.28. The captaincy appears to have brought the best out of the 28-year-old, who became the first captain to score hundreds in his first five Tests in charge (he also scored two hundreds in two Tests when he was skipper against Bangladesh in 2010), and he will be looking to continue in the same vein. When he reached his hundred in Kolkata Cook broke the record for hundreds by an England player, which he currently holds with 23 centuries. While the Essex batsman may not be the flashiest batsman in the England team, he has consistently performed at the top of the order for a number of years now and has a superb Test average of 49.42. It is vital for England that their captain continues to give them a solid platform, as this allows the middle-order players to take the game to the opposition.
Kevin Pietersen: The most talented batsmen in the England team, capable of winning matches on his own, as shown by his brilliant 186 in Mumbai. The fiasco of last summer appears to be behind him after his successful “reintegration” and Pietersen will be keen to continue his good form. When England last toured New Zealand in 2008, Pietersen scored a vital 129 in the deciding Test in Napier as England secured a 2-1 series win. The 32-year-old will be fresh after being rested for the T20s and ODIs, and will no doubt be looking to make up for lost time and score big runs in this series. The Surrey batsman has also claimed 10 Test match wickets with his off-breaks.
Joe Root: The rising star of English cricket. Made his Test debut in Nagpur where he scored 73 and 20 not out. Has since played eight ODIs with a lowest score of 28 not out and impressive average of 81.50. There have been calls for the 22-year-old to be promoted to open the batting in Test cricket in place of Nick Compton, with Root’s Yorkshire team-mate Jonny Bairstow coming in at number six. However, Compton retained his spot at the top of the order for England’s only warm up match, against a New Zealand XI, with Root at number six. While Root appears to be destined to eventually open the batting for England in Test matches in the future, staying in the middle-order for the time being may turn out to be a blessing in disguise as despite his huge talent and impressive performances Root is still a relative newcomer to international cricket and the pressures that come with opening the batting are immense. Root also bowls some decent off-breaks and appears to have a long international career ahead of him.
James Anderson: The leader of England’s bowling attack will be in his element on the seam friendly New Zealand wickets. The Lancastrian is now England’s leading wicket-taker, with 535 international wickets, after breaking Sir Ian Botham’s England wicket record in the first ODI against New Zealand. The 30-year-old was impressive throughout the ODI series, and claimed figures of 5-34 in the second ODI. Anderson also led the bowling attack superbly in the recent Test series win in India, where he was comfortably the best seamer in the two teams, taking 12 wickets at an average of 30.25 on pitches that are not conducive to seam bowling.
Steven Finn: England’s quickest bowler who can trouble sides with raw pace and has all the ingredients to cause the New Zealand batsmen problem, providing he stays fit. Finn missed three of the four Tests in India due to injury but he played a crucial role in the Test he managed to play, taking three vital wickets in India’s second innings in Kolkata as England secured a seven-wicket victory which put them 2-1 up in the series. The 23-year-old has looked fit and hostile in New Zealand so far and he gives the England bowling attack some vital firepower. The Middlesex seamer has claimed 70 wickets from his first 17 Test matches, with a bowling average of 28.22, and he should be fresh for the first Test after being rested for the warm up match.
PAST THREE TEST SERIES
South Africa (a) lost 2-0.
First Test, Cape Town, January 2-4 2013, New Zealand (45 and 275) lost to South Africa (347-8dec) by an innings and 27 runs.
Second Test, Port Elizabeth, January 11-14 2013, South Africa (525-8dec) beat New Zealand (121 and 211) by an innings and 193 runs.
Sri Lanka (a) drew 1-1.
First Test, Galle, November 17-19 2012, New Zealand (221 and 118) lost to Sri Lanka (247 and 93-0) by ten wickets.
Second Test, Colombo (PSS), November 25-29 2012, New Zealand (412 and 194-9dec) beat Sri Lanka (244 and 195) by 167 runs.
India (a) lost 2-0.
First Test, Hyderabad (Deccan), August 23-26 2012, India (438) beat New Zealand (159 and 164) by an innings and 115 runs.
Second Test, Bangalore, August 31-September 3 2012, New Zealand (365 and 248) lost to India (353 and 262-5) by five wickets.
India (a) won 2-1.
First Test, Ahmedabad, November 15-19 2012, India (521-8dec and 80-1) beat England (191 and 406) by nine wickets.
Second Test, Mumbai, November 23-26 2012, India (327 and 142) lost to England (413 and 58-0) by ten wickets.
Third Test, Kolkata, December 5-9 2012, India (316 and 247) lost to England (523 and 41-3) by seven wickets.
Fourth Test, Nagpur, December 13-17 2012, England (330 and 352-4dec) drew with India (326-9dec).
South Africa (h) lost 2-0.
First Test, The Oval, July 19-23 2012, England (385 and 240) lost to South Africa (637-2dec) by an innings and 12 runs.
Second Test, Headingley, August 2-6 2012, South Africa (419 and 258-9dec) drew with England (425 and 130-4).
Third Test, Lord’s, August 16-20 2012, South Africa (309 and 351) beat England (315 and 294) by 51 runs.
West Indies (h) won 2-0.
First Test, Lord’s, May 17-21 2012, West Indies (243 and 345) lost to England (398 and 193-5) by five wickets.
Second Test, Trent Bridge, May 25-28 2012, West Indies (370 and 165) lost to England (428 and 111-1) by nine wickets.
Third Test, Edgbaston, June 7-11 2012, West Indies (426) drew with England (221-5).
First Test, Dunedin, March 6-10 2013
Second Test, Wellington, March 14-18 2013
Third Test, Auckland, March 22-26 2013