Vaughan targets 'crucial' flying start for England

Hobbiton, the village created by Peter Jackson in his film adaptation of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, sits in the lush green countryside on the outskirts of Hamilton, but England need their big men to turn up at Seddon Park on Wednesday morning to contest the first Test against New Zealand. If Michael Vaughan's under-pressure side are to produce the confidence-boosting start they require in the three-Test series, it is the likes of Stephen Harmison, Matthew Hoggard, Andrew Strauss, Kevin Pietersen, Ian Bell and the captain himself who must show the way.

It is a series England must and should win. New Zealand are a competitive and proud team, especially at home, with a starting 11 that contains several admirable cricketers, but they should be no match for an England side that plays to its full potential. Reaching such a goal has been the difficult and disappointing part of England's recent Test cricket. Vaughan's side contains many high quality players but there has been something missing from their cricket for some time.

Injury, complacency, fatigue, immaturity and unaccountability have all been cited as reasons for the team's downturn, but a single cause is yet to be pinpointed. In truth, it is probably a combination of issues that has led to England winning just two of the eight post-Ashes 2005 Test series they have played in.

When confidence is fragile it is vital for a team to start well and England's openers, whether it is Alastair Cook and Vaughan with the bat, or Hoggard and Ryan Sidebottom, who successfully came through a fitness test on his right hamstring yesterday, with the ball, someone needs to take on that responsibility. When three Tests are played in such a short period of time – 22 days – a poor first hour, session or day can have a dramatic effect. Momentum is suddenly gained by a team and before you know it the series has gone. A slow start for England would further dent their belief and possibly give the Black Caps the encouragement they need to pull off an unexpected victory.

"It is crucial that we do get off to a good start," admitted Vaughan. "The series could be won and lost by the way either top order bats on Wednesday. If we can get in to them early, we can get in to their powerful middle order quicker. It is the same for us, and Alastair Cook and I need to get us off to a good start. The pitch might do a little bit early on, as we have seen in the last week or so, so it is crucial we start well.

"Most teams do well in a game if they have a good first day. We have to make sure we get our disciplines right – bat and bowl and field well. I know that if you put those three disciplines together you generally get good results. The team is excited and vibrant going in to the Test series. The conditions here suit our style of play and hopefully that will win us the series."

Vaughan confirmed that England's batting line-up will be the same as it was against the New Zealand Select XI in Dunedin, with Strauss returning to the side and batting at three, Ian Bell coming in at five and Paul Collingwood at six. England are yet to finalise their bowling attack. They will wait to see if Sidebottom suffers any reaction to yesterday's fitness test, but Hoggard, Harmison, Sidebottom and Monty Panesar are expected to play.

The muggy conditions in Waikato should give the swing bowlers something to work with. Swing is an imprecise art and Stuart Broad, who is unlikely to play, was moving the ball in the air more than Hoggard and Sidebottom at practice yesterday.

Vaughan admits that the side are under pressure but refused to point the finger at himself or any of his players. "It is an important series for us all," he said. "I don't want to highlight any individuals because I don't sense there is a huge amount of pressure on senior players. I just think there is pressure on us as a unit to get back to playing good consistent cricket. We are committed to doing that and if we don't we have to be realistic – questions will be asked.

"There is not a day when you don't feel pressure as the England captain, but I haven't felt under any more pressure recently than a few years ago. As a team we realise we need to start playing some good cricket. Winning this series is very important for the development of this team."

The task will be made easier when England's batsmen start turning fifties in to hundreds. In their previous four Tests an England player has passed fifty on 13 occasions, yet only once – Cook in Galle – have they gone on to reach three figures. The conversion rate needs to be addressed. Vaughan admitted that the batsmen have spoken about the issue and said there was a strong desire to correct it.

New Zealand will consider their bowling options before naming their side. Daniel Vettori's interpretation of the pitch is different to Vaughan's. Vettori believes it may spin, thus increasing the possibility of Jeetan Patel playing ahead of Iain O'Brien. Small boundaries will not help his or Patel's cause.

* The India spinner Harbhajan Singh will not face action over claims that he made racist taunts, including monkey chants, to sections of the crowd in Sydney during the first match of the CB Series finals against Australia on Sunday.

Angus Fraser's possible teams and series itinerary

* England

M P Vaughan (c)

A N Cook

A J Strauss

K P Pietersen

I R Bell

P D Collingwood

T R Ambrose (w)

R Sidebottom

M J Hoggard

S J Harmison

M S Panesar

*New Zealand

D L Vettori (c)

M D Bell

J M How

S P Fleming

M S Sinclair

L R P L Taylor

J D P Oram

B B McCullum (w)

K D Mills

I E O'Brien

C S Martin


5-9 March

First Test (Hamilton, starts 21.30 GMT, tonight)

13-17 March

Second Test (Wellington, starts 21.30, 12 March)

22-26 March

Third Test (Napier,

starts 21.30, 21 March)

A survey carried out by Sainsbury's Finance found 20% of new university students have never washed their own clothes, while 14% cannot even boil an egg
science...and the results are not as pointless as that sounds
Sean Abbott
cricketSean Abbott is named Australia's young cricketer of the year
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

Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea