The marathon approaches its end
June 25, The Oval
Start time 6.30pm (1730 GMT)
Remember New Zealand's tour of England? Well, it didn't end two weeks ago. Less than 48 hours after England failed to win their first piece of global 50-over silverware by losing a T20 shootout against India, the T20 leg of the New Zealand series will begin at The Oval. The insistent rumble of the Ashes, which got even louder on Monday, means that a squad made up of T20 specialists and assorted young tyros has been assembled, with none of England's senior Test players involved. Oh, except for Kevin Pietersen, who could play in the second game on Thursday.
In Stuart Broad's absence, Eoin Morgan will lead a side likely to contain four of his Champions Trophy team-mates. The T20 team, logically, diverges the furthest from England's Test blueprint and the likes of Michael Lumb, Alex Hales, Luke Wright and Jade Dernbach are regulars in the shortest form but there could still be a debutant or two involved, with call-ups for Yorkshire's hard-hitting middle-order batsman Gary Ballance and the former Ireland seamer Boyd Rankin.
New Zealand won the ODIs against England 2-1, raising expectations, but faltered in the Champions Trophy group stage, albeit that the weather played a big role in two of their games. The squad has been freshened up a little for what will be New Zealand's last international fixtures before a few months off. Back at the start of February, these two teams began their 16-round tussle over two continents with England smashing the ball around Eden Park with record-breaking abandon. Hopefully there will still be some gas in the tank.
Form guide (most recent first)England WLWWL
New Zealand LWLLW
In the spotlight
Ravi Bopara sneaked into England's Champions Trophy squad and then proceeded to make himself an indispensible member of the team, at a time when many were prepared to write him off as an international nearly man. Bopara appeared to be a central component for England in the build up to the World Twenty20 last year, only to lose form and confidence at a crucial time. His last T20I innings was a single run from six balls in the Super Six defeat to Sri Lanka that sent the holders out but he now has the opportunity to further strengthen his renaissance credentials.
New Zealand rarely seem to be short of nuggety allrounders to hit hard down the order and fill in with a few overs of medium pace. Corey Anderson was brought in as an ODI debutant in the Champions Trophy match against England, many thought precisely because of the threat of rain and a shortened game - he bowled one over at a cost of four runs and then biffed 30 in a revitalising partnership with Kane Williamson. The burly left-hander appears likely to get an opportunity to press his case ahead of James Franklin.
Apart from Pietersen, who will not be available for the first game, England have named a squad completely devoid of players likely to be involved in the Ashes. Alex Hales has struggled for runs with Nottinghamshire recently, while Jade Dernbach's stock dipped when called into the ODI squad as cover before the Champions Trophy but the low-key nature of this series might be to their advantage. Boyd Rankin and Gary Ballance could both win their first caps for England.
England 1 Michael Lumb, 2 Alex Hales, 3 Luke Wright, 4 Ravi Bopara, 5 Eoin Morgan (capt), 6 Jos Buttler (wk), 7 Ben Stokes, 8 Chris Woakes, 9 James Tredwell, 10 Jade Dernbach, 11 Boyd Rankin/Danny Briggs
Hamish Rutherford returns after a few weeks in county cricket with Essex but the majority of the team will be familiar. Tom Latham provided some fireworks in New Zealand's win over Kent on Sunday and could return to the middle-order, with Grant Elliott absent through injury. Ian Butler and Doug Bracewell will vie to deputise for Tim Southee, while Ronnie Hira provides another spin-bowling option.
New Zealand 1 Hamish Rutherford, 2 Martin Guptill, 3 Brendon McCullum (capt, wk), 4 Ross Taylor, 5 Tom Latham, 6 Colin Munro, 7 Corey Anderson, 8 Nathan McCullum, 9 Ian Butler, 10 Kyle Mills, 11 Mitchell McClenaghan
Pitch and conditions
Scene of England's dominant Champions Trophy semi-final win, a different surface is likely to be used for the T20 but bounce and turn should still figure. The forecast is for a warm evening with some cloud cover, which could help the ball swing.
Stats and trivia
- England have won seven out of nine T20s against New Zealand. The only previous T20 international played between them in England was a nine-wicket home victory at Old Trafford in 2008.
- New Zealand have the top two T20 batsmen in the world - Martin Guptill and Brendon McCullum - according to the current rankings.
- Since making a half-century against Worcestershire at the start of May, Alex Hales has score 78 runs in 13 innings, with 11 single-figure scores.
Alan Gardner is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here