New Zealand v England
Sunday February 25 01:00 GMT
TV: live on Sky Sports
New Zealand happy to be back in ODI
The Kiwis come into this series in a curious state. They were terribly disappointing in the Trans-Tasman T20 Series, in which they displayed an impressive array of ways to lose from winning positions. A reverse at home against Pakistan in another T20 series had preceded that.
Kane Williamson, the skipper, and Mike Hesson, the coach, came in for criticism. And other senior players, like Tim Southee, were also targeted. The suggestion was that the international team is a closed shop.
Twas ever thus in New Zealand. The sniping between players past, present and current is off the scale and like nowhere else.
They should be happy to return to ODI. They thrashed Pakistan 5-0 at home in January and their record is staggeringly good on home soil: in their last nine series, dating back to February 2015, they have won eight.
Ish Sodhi, the spinner, has been recalled to the squad because of injury doubts to Mitchell Santner and Todd Astle. Santner is a key cog so if he misses out it would be a blow.
As ever, they need runs up front. Martin Guptill and Kane Williamson are their rocks. Colin Munro is a dasher. Ross Taylor will either be an anchor or on a rescue mission.
Stokes unlikely for England
Ben Stokes is not expected to play in game one. Coach Trevor Bayliss revealed that it was highly unlikely he would be considered for the contest when he touched down a week ago. This despite arriving in the country before some other squad members.
But Joe Root, Moeen Ali and Chris Woakes (an unsung hero and a bet for top bowler), should all slot back in. Whether they can get back to the form which so impressively duffed up Australia remains to be seen. Liam Plunkett is injured.
There is a nice symmetry to the series. After England flopped horribly at the last World Cup they vowed never again would they go quietly. A new era of ultra-attacking cricket was born.
New Zealand were the first side they tried it out on in 2015. The result was a stunning 3-2 series success. Don't forget the Kiwis were World Cup runners-up at the time and they didn't know what hit them.
The rest of the world didn't either. In the 13 two-team series since the World Cup England have won ten. They have suffered defeats against Australia (at home) and away to India and South Africa.
A tricky wicket?
Here are the scores from the last 18 completed ODI at Seddon Park (most recent first with 1/2 denoting game won by side batting first or second): 262-2/279-2/207-2/281-1/246-1/288-2/259-2/339-1/248-2/278-2/271-2/363-1/258-2/268-1/245-2/270-2/158-2/350-2. That is an average of 271.
There should be grip for spinners. Last time out Williamson and Santner put a squeeze on Pakistan. And Shadab Khan, the leggie, took three wickets in the chase. Ab De Villiers also said that the wicket was the toughest he'd played on - that was only last February.
Two factors against tourists
New Zealand are rated as significant outsiders here at 2.3811/8. We get that. England are a powerful unit. They go off at 1.738/11.
But conditions could be a leveller here and we might kick ourselves if we took short odds on England - respected though they are - knowing that there are factors that could work against them.
For a start there is the importance of the toss under lights. It's 13 wins from 18 for the chaser at Seddon Park, suggesting the ball can be tricky to grip for the defender.
And then there's spin. We know that England have a bit of a weakness when the ball grips on a tacky surface. They can't hit through the line with freedom. So if they lose the toss and bat, expect New Zealand to bowl as much as spin as possible. Santner even opened the bowling last time against Pakistan.
Guptill or Williamson?
Guptill has a terrific record at Seddon Park. Williamson is not too shabby either. We have done some in-depth analysis of the top new Zealand bat market here. It should make it clear as to who to choose between. Taylor is actually the top run-getter at the ground but he has played in more matches than Guptill and Williamson.
Root Mr Reliable
Root is by far and away England's most consistent runscorer in ODI. In the last 12 months he has 1,077 runs. The next best is Eoin Morgan with 707. Root should be refreshed after a break during the T20s. He will go off around 3.953/1 for top England bat.