England v New Zealand: Alastair Cook’s men must play to potential
England v New Zealand: Alastair Cook's men must impress against the Black Caps ahead of a busy summer, writes Ryan Bailey
After an indifferent Test series in New Zealand, the stakes are high for England as a busy summer of international action commences at the home of cricket.
The message from the selectors is clear – a repeat of the performances witnessed during the winter will have significant ramifications ahead of back-to-back Ashes series.
National selector Geoff Miller has given the clearest indication yet that there was a touch of complacency from Alastair Cook’s side during the winter tour, and insists the same mistakes will not be tolerated when the return series begins at Lord’s on Thursday.
The world’s second-ranked team struggled in New Zealand where they were outplayed in the three-Test series, salvaging a 0-0 draw only by stubbornly batting out a gripping final day of the third match in Auckland, thanks to Matt Prior’s heroics.
With the Ashes the main attraction this summer, the arrival of the Black Caps for the return series has been somewhat regarded as a side show.
However, with the impending clash against the Aussies in July, the hosts know that this series has taken on a lot more meaning and they must full focus on beating the Black Caps, who are led by Brendon McCullum.
Cook will captain England for the first time in a Test series on home soil after leading the side in Bangladesh, India and New Zealand, and the 28-year-old has emphasised the importance of getting the crucial summer of cricket off to a good start.
“Obviously we were slightly disappointed with the standard of cricket we played over there but full credit to New Zealand and how well they played,” he told ecb.co.uk.
“It’s going to be no different here. We’ve got to play as close as we can to our potential. That’s kind of the challenge of sport; you’re always trying to play as close to your maximum potential as you can.
“That’s what we’re aiming for this week and hopefully we can put New Zealand under pressure in these two games.”
After a turbulent 12 months, New Zealand appear to be heading in the right direction and head into the Test series full of confidence after a comprehensive victory over Derbyshire and a rain-affected draw with the England Lions.
The Kiwis, ranked eighth in the world, showed great resilience and spirit to upset the odds after a difficult end to last year in which their captain Ross Taylor was sacked in acrimonious circumstances and they lost two tests in South Africa by an innings.
However, the two game series in England will be a stern test of their recent progress.
England: Alastair Cook (captain), Nick Compton, Jonathan Trott, Ian Bell, Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow, Matt Prior (wicketkeeper), Stuart Broad, Graeme Swann, James Anderson, Steve Finn, Tim Bresnan.
New Zealand: Peter Fulton, Hamish Rutherford, Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor, Dean Brownlie, Brendon McCullum (captain), BJ Watling, Doug Bracewell, Tim Southee, Bruce Martin, Trent Boult, Neil Wagner.