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)

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

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot