England stick to masterplan
June 2, 2013
Start time 10.45am (0945 GMT)
The Big Picture
Like a confident election campaign team beginning to get wind of some worrying exit poll data, England are experiencing a few pre-Champions Trophy jitters. Having glided serenely towards this year's limited-overs centrepiece with their Bank of England top three, middle-order pocket rockets and specialist seam-and-swing attack blueprint firmly in place, there is just a hint of disquiet. And not only because defeat to New Zealand at the Ageas Bowl would mean a first ODI series loss at home in almost four years.
Injury deprived England of Kevin Pietersen several weeks ago - providing grist to the mill of those who worry about their stolid approach early in the game, two new balls or otherwise, and the subsequent pressure that puts on the players to come - and "niggles" now hang ominously over two key members of the bowling attack, in Stuart Broad and Steven Finn. Chris Woakes, in particular, was treated dismissively by Martin Guptill and Ross Taylor at Lord's and the call-up for Boyd Rankin, who played his last ODI for Ireland in February 2012, might kindly be described as a gamble. Neither Rankin or Jade Dernbach are yet in the Champions Trophy mix but Alastair Cook was noticeably unwilling to make any guarantees on the fitness of Broad and Finn.
But one flutter of panic does not make an episode of Dad's Army and England will likely dust off those shiny new red uniforms and refocus on imposing their "skills" against New Zealand. Switching rapidly between formats can cause problems for everyone and while a one-day side largely familiar to each other through Test cricket can have its benefits, the challenge is for them all to go up in gear together. It seems unlikely that so many of the batsmen will get in and not go on again. England came from behind to win the ODIs against the same opponents earlier in the year and will undoubtedly be sharper down at the Ageas Bowl.
New Zealand's position is, by contrast, an enviable one. Unfancied for the tournament to come and dogged by indifferent form over the last couple of years, Brendon McCullum was understandably excited by victory at Lord's (which maintained their unbeaten record in ODIs there) and what it augurs for his team. Guptill's return to form has been timed like the lofted six over long-on during his unbeaten century and the bowling attack demonstrated variety and skill. New Zealand are the only team other than Australia to win an ODI series in England in the last five years; they are in sight of a repeat.
Form guide(Most recent first)
New Zealand WLLWL
Watch out for...
After Tim Bresnan was sent for elbow surgery over the winter, Chris Woakes was given an opportunity to audition for the No. 7 spot. He performed creditably in New Zealand and is a more accomplished batsman but doubts about whether he has the requisite level of control if the ball does not swing for him resurfaced at Lord's. He is considered by some to be a better red-ball prospect - and going at almost eight an over is certainly one way to confine your ambitions to a different format - but he should get another chance at the Ageas.
Luke Ronchi joined the ranks of dual internationals with his New Zealand debut on Friday, taking three catches in a tidy display behind the stumps. An aggressive, fast-scoring batsman, he has been tasked with opening the innings but got little opportunity to demonstrate his abilities thanks to a pearler from James Anderson that saw him off for a three-ball duck. Improving on that may not be too difficult but Ronchi has a further incentive to impress, having played locally in the Southern Electric Premier League for Bashley (Rydal) during the early part of his career.
Less than a week before the start of the Champions Trophy, England have some issues to ponder. Broad and Finn will be protected again and Bresnan remains on standby to leave for the birth of his child. After the struggles of Woakes and Dernbach at Lord's, uncertainty stalks the replacements bench. Could Boyd Rankin - valued for his height, which differentiates him from the other fit bowlers in the squad - make a surprise England debut? Will Woakes' batting keep him at No. 7, despite a rank display with the ball? Is a two-spinner policy conceivable? Might Ravi Bopara make yet another comeback? Unlikely. But the announcement at the toss will be interesting.
England (probable) 1 Alastair Cook (capt), 2 Ian Bell, 3 Jonathan Trott, 4 Joe Root, 5 Eoin Morgan, 6 Jos Buttler (wk), 7 Chris Woakes, 8 Tim Bresnan, 9 Graeme Swann, 10 James Anderson, 11 Boyd Rankin
Daniel Vettori's continuing fitness woes mean that Nathan McCullum will again shoulder the spinning duties - a job he proved more than up to at Lord's, taking 2 for 34. Aside from two top-order failures and Brendon McCullum's continuing search for form with the bat, most of the XI that won at Lord's made contributions of some sort so an unchanged side seems likely.
New Zealand (probable) 1 Luke Ronchi (wk), 2 Martin Guptill, 3 Kane Williamson, 4 Ross Taylor, 5 Grant Elliott, 6 Brendon McCullum (capt), 7 James Franklin, 8 Nathan McCullum, 9 Tim Southee, 10 Kyle Mills, 11 Mitchell McClenaghan
Pitch and conditions
The pitches in Southampton can be on the slow side but internationals are usually blessed with a true surface to bat on; barring one rain-affected match, you have to go back to 2004 to find an ODI in which there was not an individual century scored on either side. A sunny forecast means minimal assistance for the seamers.
Stats and trivia
- New Zealand's only previous visit to the Ageas (formerly Rose) Bowl came during the 2004 NatWest series*. The match, against West Indies, was abandoned without a ball bowled.
- Ian Bell has made two of his three ODI hundreds at the ground: 126 on both occasions, against India and West Indies.
- New Zealand have won six of their last seven completed ODIs against England in England.
- James Anderson needs three wickets to overtake Darren Gough as England's most successful one-day bowler.
"The signal? It's that [baby in arms] from the balcony. Then I'll drop my shopping and hope I've bowled my ten overs, then sprint off, jump in the car with my spikes on."
Tim Bresnan on what happens if his wife goes into labour during the match
"When you lose two tall bowlers you want to replace them with another tall bowler."
Alastair Cook explains England's deceptively simple selection strategy
"South Africa was quite similar, we came off some tough Test defeats, then we rocked up and won the first game. We're a very confident one-day team and it was a satisfying win."
Grant Elliott on New Zealand's belief in the shorter formats
*June 1, 20.30 GMT: The original said the match was part of the Champions Trophy. This has been corrected.
Alan Gardner is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo