Alastair Cook led England to an historic series victory in India before Christmas and will be keen to keep the momentum going against New Zealand with back-to-back Ashes series just around the corner. The Essex opener appears to have the perfect temperament to captain his country and continues to impress with his decision-making – his side should punish the Black Caps in the three-match Test series which begins next week.
Given they’d just returned from a successful one-day series in South Africa and have always been a bit of a bogey team for England in limited-overs cricket, New Zealand would have expected to win one or both of the T20 and one-day series. But they lost both and, in all honesty, the margin could have been greater had England not let their standards slip in a couple of games. Ring-rustiness could probably be blamed for their first 50-over defeat.
Test cricket is not New Zealand’s forte nowadays and none of their batsmen have given any indication they know how to cope with Jimmy Anderson, Stuart Broad and Steve Finn. Add Graeme Swann‘s control into the mix in the longest form of the game and it’s likely to be a fruitless series for the hosts who will be without key bowlers Mitchell McClenaghan and Daniel Vettori and opening batsman Martin Guptill for most if not all of the series. Jesse Ryder is also on a self-imposed exile while Ross Taylor was below his best in the T20 and one-day games so New Zealand have big problems as Brendon McCullum won’t be able to hit his way out of trouble with no fielding restrictions.
The hosts’ recent Test match record at home is also a big worry. They haven’t won a series on home soil against any of the major Test-playing nations since beating the West Indies in 2006 and have lost their last three home series against competent opposition without winning a single match.
It’s very difficult to see how New Zealand are going to avoid a whitewash against England unless the weather intervenes. That is a possibility in at least one of the three scheduled Tests but we’ll take England to win two out of three (2-0) at 9/4 with Paddy Power and Ladbrokes. The tourists have lost only one of their last six Test series away from home and won three of their last five. As two of these were in Australia and India, vastly superior to New Zealand in all departments, there looks to be little hope of an upset.
Joe Root is fast becoming a star and the Yorkshire youngster seems to have made the number six spot his own. He is a general 7/1 to be England’s leading run-maker over the three Test matches. Cook, however, remains in fine form himself and is a stand-out 11/4 with Stan James while Kevin Pietersen, who was rested for the T20 and one-day series, is 10/3 with Coral, Paddy Power and Stan James.