New Zealand bank on home advantage
England are 16 rating points ahead of New Zealand in the ICC rankings, but the three-Test series could be closer than that. In their last 14 Tests overseas, England have only won one - against India in Mumbai in 2006 - but have lost nine, including six in a row. New Zealand's performance as a Test team isn't much better - they thrashed Bangladesh recently at home, but just before that were beaten handily in South Africa.
In the 88 Tests that the two teams have played so far, England have the overwhelming advantage, winning 41 and losing just seven. Even in New Zealand, the numbers aren't much better for the home team, with only three wins against 16 defeats.
The last time England toured New Zealand, though, they only manage a drawn series, losing the third Test after winning the first. The home advantage for New Zealand is a significant one: in 31 home Tests since 2000, they have won 13 and lost ten; during the same period overseas, they have won just seven and lost 12.
The huge difference for New Zealand when they play at home is their bowling attack: as the table below indicates, the difference between the batting average home and away is insignificant, but for most of the bowlers, bowling in familiar conditions has been a big plus.
A look at the stats for the New Zealand bowlers offers further proof: Chris Martin averages 28 at home, but each wicket costs him ten more runs abroad. The contrast is even more stark for Jacob Oram - an average of 19.45 at home balloons to 59.25 overseas, with just 16 wickets from 14 Tests. Daniel Vettori, has a slightly better average overseas than in seamer-friendly conditions at home, but even here the difference is only marginal.
Among the batsmen, Stephen Fleming, New Zealand's most experienced man clearly doesn't relish facing the England bowlers at home: in 12 such innings he has only scored 288 at an average of 24. Mathew Sinclair hasn't played England before, but unlike Fleming, he is a giant at home, averaging 43 in New Zealand and 28 elsewhere.
For England batsmen, Michael Vaughan and Andrew Strauss are the two top-order batsmen who have played Tests against New Zealand, and they have had mixed fortunes. Vaughan has had a tough time, averaging less than 24 from nine innings against them, but for Strauss the experience has been far more pleasant: 273 runs at 45.50.
Matthew Hoggard, England's most experienced bowler in this line-up, is the only one from the squad to have bowled in New Zealand, and he has had outstanding success here, taking 17 wickets in three Tests at less than 24 apiece, and striking once every 42 deliveries. Steve Harmison is the only other bowler to have played New Zealand, when he played three Tests at home, taking 21 wickets at 22.09.
England will also have to overcome the home team's fondness for Hamilton, the venue for the first Test. In the last five Tests here, New Zealand have won three and drawn two. Their last defeat here was eight years ago, when Australia beat them by six wickets.
S Rajesh is stats editor of Cricinfo