New Zealand have arrived in England ahead of the two-match series later this month, and won their first tour match against Derbyshire over the weekend. Callum Davis looks ahead to the First Test at Lords and sees England notching a win as part of a series whitewash...
"New Zealand will be desperate to silence talk of them being the warm up to the main event of the Ashes, and while England will now know not to take the Black Caps lightly, it's difficult to envisage New Zealand administering any damage on behalf of their neighbours across the Tasman Sea."
For most cricket fans, the summer of 2013 means only one thing: The Ashes. But before England look too far ahead to the prospect of retaining the urn for the third series in a row, a two-match series against New Zealand beckons for Alistair Cook's side with a lot to prove.
New Zealand travel to England just over one month after England managed to miraculously rescue a draw from the jaws of defeat in Auckland. Matt Prior's last day heroics on the final day of the test salvaged a draw for England denying New Zealand a series win which was thought of as high unlikely prior to the series.
England's lethargic display throughout their three match series with the Black Caps saw Alistair Cook fending off criticism from many quarters of the media that England had taken a series victory in New Zealand for granted. This return fixture will be targeted by the England skipper as an ideal opportunity to prove his capabilities as an England captain. Cook has recently admitted that he could of led his side better in the New Zealand series, and the Essex man will be determined to orchestrate a more emphatic performance to lay down a marker for the main event of the summer, The Ashes.
England's current price of 1.384/11 to win the series is particularly short but unsurprising.
The return of Graeme Swann from a long term elbow injury will bolster an English bowling attack which underperformed in New Zealand. Two of New Zealand's key performers, Ross Taylor and Brendan McCullum, will join the touring party late from their participation in the IPL, and the disruption to preparation will not improve New Zealand's chances before the First Test.
Kevin Pietersen will miss the series as he hopes to rest a persistent knee injury which many fear will keep him from taking to the field for his fifth Ashes series since his blistering debut in 2005. However, the impressive emergence of Joe Root into the England batting line up will ease concerns over the void left by Pietersen's absence. Root was one of the few shining lights from an otherwise dismal showing from England.
On the pitches of Lords and Headingly, I'd expect England's performance with bat and ball to improve markedly on their display in New Zealand. The tracks in New Zealand seemed to be purposefully designed to nullify England's pace attack, but James Anderson et al will be confident of making more of an impact this time around. England are priced at 1.68/13 to earn victory in the First Test at Lords, and although this comes across as quite short given the 0-0 series result a couple of months earlier, I still believe it is the best bet if the spring sunshine continues to bless London.
A 2-0 series win for England is currently priced at 2.245/4, and I am fully expecting an England whitewash given the fact that New Zealand have not registered a test victory against England in their two previous tours of the country. New Zealand will be desperate to silence talk of them being the warm up to the main event of the Ashes, and while England will now know not to take the Black Caps lightly, it's difficult to envisage New Zealand administering any damage on behalf of their neighbours across the Tasman Sea.