Ed Hawkins previews the two-Test series and reminds us of how difficult touring teams have found it to win series' in the last five years...
"In the last five years there have been 46 series played between the top eight nations and only 13 of them have been won by the away team"
England start a summer with a familiar sense of unease on Thursday at Lord's with the first of two Tests against a New Zealand side buoyed by their burgeoning reputation.
They couldn't be more contrasting camps. England are in disarray on and off the field, just as they were this time last year before Sri Lanka gave them a bloody nose with a historic series victory.
The sacking of Peter Moores has left England without a coach, the Kevin Pietersen saga has done untold damage while the failure to beat a West Indies team shorn of their best players has meant that the team has more than whiff of mediocrity. English cricket is out-dated and dull at the moment.
New Zealand, on the other hand, are everyone's favourite. The thrilling, often reckless, stuff they played in their march to the World Cup final has won friends all over the world. They are seen as vibrant, young and exciting.
Given the disparity between the two, one could be forgiven for reckoning that stale England will be broken up a whirlwind Kiwi team, desperate to prove that they are dangerous in any format.
The series odds certainly reflect that. England are 2.77/4 for victory, which is surely one of the biggest prices in their history against such opposition, who are 3.1511/5. The draw is 3.02/1.
Punters perusing those odds for the first time will probably be disappointed. They would have wanted a bigger price about New Zealand. To take such short odds - 4.03/1 would have been tempting - one must be absolutely convinced that those contrasting fortunes of the two sides will prove pivotal in just two matches.
More importantly, one must be convinced that New Zealand have what it takes to reverse an almost worldwide trend in Test cricket; that it is very hard these days for visiting sides to win series away from home.
In the last five years there have been 46 series played between the top eight nations and only 13 of them have been won by the away team. Five of those were by South Africa, the No 1 side in the world. If we were to discount the Proteas, we're looking at a record of eight in 41. In other words, a 5.04/1 chance.
New Zealand have won one from their previous eight away series - against West Indies last time out - and have failed to win a Test in their last nine attempts in England. England, by the way, have won seven from their last nine series at home.
Given those numbers, it is almost impossible to reckon that New Zealand are value to beat England. We're not saying it won't happen, it's just that it would be remiss of us to recommend them at such prohibitive odds.
They are unlikely to be helped by their preparation, or lack of it. A solitary warm-up against Somerset followed by a rain-hit encounter against Worcestershire has not been ideal (this modern trend for short tours is possibly the reason for the poor record of away teams) while the late arrival of Brendon McCullum, Tim Southee, Trent Boult and Kane Williamson from the IPL is baffling.
Thrash and bash cricket on the Indian sub-continent is no way to prepare for a Test series in England where conditions are so different they are virtually alien. Williamson was included in the team to play Worcestershire but the other three will have limited time to acclimatise.
Otherwise there is an awful lot to like about New Zealand. Their fast-bowling resources, for one, have the potential to cause more fissures in England's ranks.
Southee and Boult, for example, both boast superior averages and strike rates to England's vaunted new-ball pair of James Anderson and Stuart Broad in the last three years. In Matt Henry and Neil Wagner they arguably have better back-up. Henry is yet to play a Test but his first-class record is superb while Wagner has shown he is more than reliable. Mark Craig, the off-break bowler, is the tenth top wicket-taker in the world in the last 12 months.
With the bat McCullum takes star billing but BJ Watling and Ross Taylor have also been in superb form in the last year. If Williamson can dig in and show his star quality, England will have plenty of work to do.
That is why it is such a shame that New Zealand have hampered their chances of a series win by not insisting that the squad was all together and all for one in time for the warm-ups. A sluggish start should be expected by New Zealand.
However, if they can hold on at Headquarters, where the pitch can often be placid, then they could have a real tilt at a nervous England at Leeds, where the hosts have a horrible record. That's when New Zealand could be considered value. Indeed, we can well imagine backing them at Headingley even if their current first Test odds of 3.711/4 were repeated.
There could be decent options on the correct score market with a 1-0 win for either side attracting most interest. England are 4.1 and New Zealand 4.67/2 respectively. A 1-1 draw is 4.1. England are 5.85/1 to win 2-0 with the tourists 6.86/1.
I'll be back to preview the First Test next week.
Ed Hawkins P/L
2014: +315.10 (ROI 27%)
2013: +250.80 (ROI 25%)
To £10 level stakes, based only on available prices. Does not include back-to-lay in-running match advice
Follow Ed on Twitter @cricketbetting