England out to restore order
May 16-20, Lord's
Start time 11am (1000GMT)
The Big Picture
England versus New Zealand; the world's second best team against the eighth best; walkover. Those who said the same thing ahead of the series in New Zealand were left feeling sheepish by the fight New Zealand showed. They came oh-so-close to a momentous upset that was utterly inconceivable given the shambles of a side that was destroyed in their previous Test series in South Africa at the turn of the year.
The fact New Zealand recovered from such embarrassment to nearly beat England suggests coach Mike Hesson has been able to quickly restore stability and create an environment where their capable squad have a chance of putting in competitive performances. They come into the first Test at Lord's in healthy shape and if their batsman can find some runs, they have a bowling attack capable of causing England problems.
New Zealand's batsmen will have to fight harder in more bowler-friendly conditions than what they encountered in March. The Dukes ball will swing more and for longer, and England's attack, far better prepared for this series with some county cricket behind them, will be eager to assert the dominance that was expected of them in New Zealand. They can be deadly on home soil, and the Kiwis' batting remains brittle.
For that reason, and given a firm kick up the backside, it is still a value bet that England will win comfortably. Their batting cannot be as lethargic as it was in New Zealand - a series they did not want after the main business was done in India. Most of the order have found form in county cricket and they are comfortable against the swinging ball, shown in the sizable totals England have racked up in Test matches in May in recent years.
The challenge is there for New Zealand to upset the odds again, and if they show as much desire as was on show in March, they will ask England to produce their best cricket to beat them. But England had a sharp reminder of what happens when they are not fully focussed and know they are playing for places in the Ashes. If England do find their best form, they should be too much for plucky New Zealand.
Form guide(Most recent first)
New Zealand DDDLL
Watch out for
After impressing on debut in Nagpur, Joe Root proved he is worthy of the hype surrounding him with eye-catching displays in the ODIs in India and New Zealand. He didn't dazzle in the Tests that followed, but a blazing start to the county season, with scores of 182 and 236 for Yorkshire, and 179 for England Lions against New Zealanders, he will be primed to make his mark in the Test arena.
If New Zealand are to cause another surprise, their seam-bowling will have to thrive. Early-season in England couldn't be better conditions for Tim Southee, a good, old-fashioned pitch-it-up-and-swing-it operator. At only 24, he is the most experienced of the New Zealand attack, and the only one to have played a Test in England.
There were question marks over all the England bowlers after they failed to trouble New Zealand away from home, where many expected them to prosper. But the selectors have kept faith with Stuart Broad, and Steven Finn is likely to retain his place too, given his good record in Tests at Lord's. Tim Bresnan is back from elbow surgery and could come into the attack. Graeme Swann is fit again, also after elbow surgery.
England 1 Alastair Cook (capt), 2 Nick Compton, 3 Jonathan Trott, 4 Ian Bell, 5 Joe Root, 6 Jonny Bairstow, 7 Matt Prior (wk), 8 Stuart Broad, 9 Graeme Swann, 10 James Anderson, 11 Steven Finn/Tim Bresnan
New Zealand also have to decide on the makeup of the bowling attack with Neil Wagner, after 12 wickets against England in New Zealand, set to retain his place after impressing in the warm-up matches. Doug Bracewell is vying for a recall having recovered from the foot injury which kept him out of the series in March. He will play if New Zealand decide to go with a four-man seam attack and leave out left-arm spinner Bruce Martin.
New Zealand 1 Peter Fulton, 2 Hamish Rutherford, 3 Kane Williamson, 4 Ross Taylor, 5 Dean Brownlie, 6 Brendon McCullum (capt), 7 BJ Watling (wk), 8 Tim Southee, 9 Doug Bracewell/Bruce Martin, 10 Neil Wagner, 11 Trent Boult
Pitch and conditions
On the whole it's been a fairly dry spring in the UK, and the Lord's wicket is dry and not set to offer too much bounce. The previous match played at Lord's, between Middlesex and Surrey, yielded plenty of runs. Overhead conditions will be key. The weather forecast is largely fair with a chance of showers into the weekend.
Stats and trivia
- England's defeat by South Africa last year ended a 13-Test unbeaten run at Lord's. They had won six and drawn seven of the preceding Tests at the venue.
- England cricketer of the year, Matt Prior, needs five catches to reach 100 Test catches in England. Only Alan Knott, with 158, and Alec Stewart, 172, have reached this landmark.
- New Zealand have won only one of their 15 visits to Lord's, the victory coming by nine wickets in 1999, but have only lost one of their last six matches at the home of cricket.
- Tim Southee needs two wickets to become the 12th New Zealander to reach 200 wickets in international cricket.
"We didn't move the ball as much as we wanted to in New Zealand on what were slow, placid wickets. But if it doesn't swing for us, and if we don't move it off the straight this week, we might be having a few panic meetings."
Stuart Broad outlines the minimum expectation of England's bowlers
"Hamish is pretty aggressive and plays a lot of shots, hits the ball in different areas and puts the bowlers off their line and length. I like to occupy the crease and wear the bowlers down."
Peter Fulton assesses the styles of him and his opening partner, Hamish Rutherford
Alex Winter is an editorial assistant at ESPNcricinfo