England aim for swing in fortunes
Having dealt with the Higgs Boson, perhaps the scientists at CERN can turn their attentions to the mysteries of swing. England attacks usually know their way around the subject - and in James Anderson they have one of the finest swing bowlers in the world - but they struggled to make the ball talk in New Zealand over the winter and Stuart Broad has admitted they need to re-establish their credentials when the return series begins at Lord's on Thursday.
While Anderson, Broad and Steven Finn were not comprehensively outbowled over the three Tests in New Zealand, they had been expected to pose more questions for a supposedly fragile batting line-up. Neil Wagner, the leading wicket-taker, and Trent Boult, the only frontline bowler to average under 30, got more out of pitches that were on the slow side and, as England scrapped their way to a draw in Auckland, the difference between the two sides in being able to manipulate the ball was marked.
Broad was England's best bowler in New Zealand, with 11 wickets (one fewer than Wagner, the same as Boult) at 31.72, providing encouragement after he struggled with an injured heel on the tour of India. England tend to win when their swinging - particularly at home - and Broad admitted it was something the attack would be attempting to rectify, starting at Lord's with a Dukes ball in hand.
"Regardless of what New Zealand did, as a bowling unit we didn't swing the ball," Broad said. "So that is something that needs to be looked at and we have looked at. But it's not something we're too concerned about because we need to focus on this series and we're arriving at Lord's, which when it's cloudy it does swing around and we have got the best swing bowler in the world in Jimmy.
"We know we can bowl a lot better than [in] New Zealand. Regardless of whether you're moving the ball, you can still put six balls in the right area and we probably didn't do that as a unit consistently. That's something we want to put into place this summer and that starts here on Thursday. It's about the discipline of the bowling unit and building pressure together.
"We've all got good experience bowling here at Lord's and I think we've got a good record as a team here. It's something we have looked at, the reasons why - we don't want to panic too much but we didn't move the ball as much as we wanted to on what were slow, placid wickets. If it doesn't swing for us and we don't move it off the street this week we might be having a few panic meetings."
If there have been no panic meetings - hardly the style of the captain, Alastair Cook - there may have been one or two gentle pats on the backside in training. England were accused of complacency in New Zealand, of turning up and expecting to win, and while that has been denied by the players, Geoff Miller, the national selector, said the tour had provided a reminder that the team could not just "go through the motions".
After a frustrating second half of 2012, Broad has more reason than most to seek the heat of battle. With Finn's somewhat indifferent early season form - his place could come under threat from Tim Bresnan - a Broad resurgence would be timely for England, in a year of Ashes ubiquity. Even if this series is an amuse-bouche to the summer's main event, his talk of "not relaxing into Test matches" and landing "the first punch" against New Zealand will perhaps provide encouragement that England's intensity will not desert them again.
"As a team we certainly won't underestimate anything they can do," Broad said. "We know they're fighters, we know they're a tough team and we know that we have to be very disciplined to compete with them and to beat them. This week we've had a lot of meetings about our focus as a team, how we want to play our cricket. You'll see a really focused team coming out on Thursday, determined to put on some good performances, to throw the first punch, to make sure the first three days are our days, the first hour is our hour, not relaxing into Test matches and chasing the game."
Alan Gardner is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo