by Luke Irelan-Hill

England v New Zealand, first Test of two-match series – Lord’s: May 16-20, 11am start.

England kick-off their hectic home summer of cricket on Thursday when the two-Test series against New Zealand gets underway at Lord’s.

Captain Alastair Cook’s side have been insistent over the past couple of weeks that they are not looking ahead to this summer’s Ashes, and believe that there is unfinished business with the Kiwis after the two nations fought out a 0-0 stalemate in New Zealand during the summer.

Let’s not forget that had it not been for the last-day heroics of England player of the year, Matt Prior, New Zealand would have won the Eden Park Test and celebrated a series victory.

England’s bowlers, led by the formidable James Anderson, found wickets harder to come by than many expected against the Black Caps, so will be keen to make the most of home comforts. This includes the Duke ball which has a raised seam in comparison to its Kookaburra counterpart.

Selection Issues

Graeme Swann and Tim Bresnan are both back from elbow injuries, with the latter seemingly battling with Steven Finn for the final bowling berth in the XI. England centrepiece Kevin Pieterson is still sidelined with injury, so Jonny Bairstow will get a further chance in the middle order alongside his in-form Yorkshire team-mate Joe Root.

New Zealand have got selection headaches of their own and the rain-affected draw with England Lions at Grace Road last week in their final warm-up fixture has not helped.

Peter Fulton just scored seven in the tourists’ one and only innings, but his two centuries against England in Auckland mean he seems likely to retain his opening berth ahead of the fit-again Martin Guptill.

Doug Bracewell’s return to fitness also leaves skipper Brendon McCullum with a decision to make over his bowling attack; Neil Wagner will definitely play, meaning New Zealand may opt to leave out spinner Bruce Martin and name four seamers, leaving them to rely on batsman Kane Williamson’s offies.

Weather Forecast / Conditions

The weather forecast is mixed over the next five days with rain expected to affect the match. As ever at Lord’s, overhead conditions could play and key part in the outcome, and it looks set to be overcast for much of the five days. Ultimately rain is going to arrive over the next five days and the toss will be a big one to win for either captain.

Key Stat

New Zealand have won only one of their 15 visits to Lord’s – the sole victory coming by nine wickets in 1999. But the Kiwis have only lost one of their last six matches at the home of cricket.


Umpires: Aleem Dar (Pak) and Steve Davis (Aus); third umpire: Marais Erasmus (SA); match referee: David Boon (Aus)