England suffered another terrible start to an overseas series in Dunedin – arguably their worst under Andy Flower. Excluding Bangladesh in 2010, England have failed to win the first Test of any overseas series since beating South Africa back in 2004. Despite England’s knack of generally being able to recover in the remainder of the series, it is certainly an area that Flower is keen to address. “If you are asking about a trend, that is certainly something that I should be addressing myself,” he said before the team travelled to Wellington. “I have some ideas on rejigging a couple of things in our preparation, in our management team firstly, and we’ll see if we can do something about it.” With a warm-up match (that England also lost) and a Test match under their belts, Alastair Cook and Flower will be hoping that their charges will be firing on all cylinders come Thursday’s second Test in Wellington.
The notorious wind in New Zealand’s capital city has already thrown both sides off guard. At the Basin Reserve, bowlers will be forced to bowl long spells running into a strong headwind from the Cook Strait. New Zealand’s bowling coach Shane Bond is unsure which of Trent Boult, Tim Southee and Neil Wagner will face the arduous task. The role is normally earmarked for the steady, economical paceman, who in turn will leave the wicket taking duties to the team’s strike-bowler. Yet, Boult, Southee and Wagner are all considered genuine wicket takers for both their domestic team and the national side. Coming off the back of bowling 114 of 170 overs in England’s second innings in Dunedin, New Zealand’s pace trio will know they have to rest up ahead of the second Test.
With Graeme Swann suffering a reoccurrence of his elbow injury in the build-up to Dunedin, the last thing England need is another period of recuperation for one of their other stars. Kevin Pietersen, 32, has been wearing heavy strapping on his knee after going off the field during New Zealand’s first innings in Dunedin, and with the IPL around the corner and back-to-back Ashes series this year, both the player, who is in the final year of his £1.4m contract with the Delhi Daredevils, and England will be hoping it is nothing serious. However, Flower believes the Surrey batsman will be fit to play and says that most players play “with something sore” and that Pietersen should be no different.
The Nottinghamshire quick may have relinquished the vice-captaincy to Matt Prior but he was back to near his best in the first Test. Broad snared Brendon McCullum, BJ Watling and Southee to keep the Black Caps in check after the tourists were bowled out for a paltry 167. England supporters will be please to see him back among the wickets after going without one in India before Christmas having pierced his fat pad on his ankle – a problem that is likely to remain with him until the end of his career. With Steven Finn and James Anderson being the tourists’ out-and-out strike-bowlers, Broad and Monty Panesar are likely to be the support act in tow. Broad, however, will just be happy to be back on the park again.