New Zealand v England: Four talking points ahead of first Test in Dunedin

New Zealand v England: Harry Kemble looks at four key areas which could decide the winner of the first Test in Dunedin

alastair cook
Alastair Cook's men take on New Zealand on Wednesday Photo: Back Page Images

alastair cook

The opening conundrum continues

England know that although Nick Compton was not entirely convincing in India, he has done just enough to secure the opening berth come Wednesday’s first Test at Dunedin’s University Oval ground. In the four Test matches against MS Dhoni’s team, he averaged 34 and hit a fifty. The statistics tell it all: good but not great. Negating the threat of the new ball and providing an able ally to Alastair Cook ensured he will not be replaced by Yorkshire sensation Joe Root. But the Somerset batsman will be well aware that his 22-year-old rival has hardly blotted his copybook since pulling on England colours for the first time in the Nagpur Test. Compton was seen in intent conversation with England’s psychologist Mark Bawden after his double failure in the warm-up match versus a New Zealand XI on Friday. Compton knows that he has arrived in international cricket relatively late and there will not be many more opportunities if he fails to convince in this series.

When will Broad injuries woes end?

Nottinghamshire all-rounder Stuart Broad is another England player with time running out with something to prove. A heel problem that needs to be carefully managed, by his own admission, throughout his career is one area. Bowling 20 overs-a-day will silence the doubters who feel that his future may lie in the shorter forms of the game. Regular injuries have hampered Broad’s 52-Test career, and at nearly 27, he needs consistency to become the mainstay of England’s attack. Conditions will certainly favour Broad’s bowling and if he can score runs too, he will be back on course to fulfilling his goal of becoming a genuine international all-rounder with 10 Tests against Australia looming large. Yet, frankly, it seems unlikely that he can make it through all 14 Tests in 2013 without another break down.

New Zealand need something to cheer

Last month the ICC announced New Zealand cricket would be receiving $600,000(£328,598) annually for the next three years. The move is to halt the continuing slump for the Black Caps that has seen them drop to eighth in the world rankings for both One-Day International cricket and Test matches. The ignominy of being bowled out for less than 50 in their last series away to South Africa highlighted just how far New Zealand have fallen behind the rest of the pack. However, despite a succession of results that have disappointed the sport-loving Kiwis, Brendon McCullum’s side will know that on their day, they are a formidable force for any team in world cricket. A quality middle-order of Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor and McCullum will hope they can contribute to give the vastly lesser number of cricket fans something to cheer about in an otherwise rugby-obsessed nation.

England’s bowling attack – the difference

Steven Finn, with his new shorter run-up, and James Anderson showed all their nous with the ball in England ODI series’ victory last month. Those two alongside Graeme Swann – ranked number seven in the world – and, hopefully, an in-form Broad represent one of the best attacks around. With favourable conditions to boot, England know that their trump card lies in their bowling and will surely prove the difference between the two sides over the three-Test series. However, the surprising three-wicket warm-up defeat last week, with the New Zealand XI managing to chase 334 on the final day, despite being 167 for five at tea, shows that not everything will turn out as expected in this Test series.

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