New Zealand have not lost a Test series in the last two years, since their last visit to the UK. Martin Guptill has not played a Test in the last two years, having featured on that tour, but he is in line for a recall at Lord's next week. Like the rest of Brendon McCullum's side, he is quietly confident of acquitting himself.
Guptill has struggled to adapt his belligerent limited-overs hitting for Test cricket, averaging less than 30 from 31 matches, but he played a full part in New Zealand's romp to the World Cup final two months ago, hammering 237 not out, the highest-ever score at the tournament, during a quarter-final win over West Indies.
He carried that form into a short stint with Derbyshire, hitting 227 off 176 balls in a Championship match at Bristol, ahead of joining up with New Zealand's touring squad. Such was the ferocity of that innings, Guptill suffered a side strain that kept him out of the warm-up match in Taunton; he is, however, expected to be fit for the game against Worcestershire, starting on Thursday.
"I guess playing here in England before the Test series was the best preparation I could have asked for. So pretty thankful for Derbyshire having me there and getting a couple of games under my belt," Guptill said. "If I get the chance in the Test matches then I'll look to play how I can play and take it from there. I'm preparing as if I'll play at the moment and if I'm not then I'll try and get in there for the second Test."
Guptill is likely to be in competition with Hamish Rutherford to partner Tom Latham at the top of the order but all three will play at New Road - weather permitting, that is, with persistent rainfall forecast for Thursday. An extra day of rest might not do Guptill any harm but New Zealand will be keen to continue their good form after starting the tour with an efficient win.
"The team played a great game down in Somerset, unfortunately I couldn't play," he said. "There's a lot of confidence in the guys at the moment, some young guys being drip fed into the team and they've done very well so far."
New Zealand will not be quite so reliant on the rookies in their squad for this match, with Guptill returning and pace bowler Matt Henry having been released early by his IPL franchise. The other five members of New Zealand's IPL contingent should begin to arrive at the weekend and could be substituted straight into the action, with the Worcerstershire match no longer having first-class status. While England's preparations are being overshadowed by off-field issues, New Zealand are gearing up nicely.
"We've come over here to win, not to compete," Guptill said. "If we can do our things well and prepare well and go out and show our skills like we have done over the past couple of years, then we're going to get the results we want.
"The guys have played some great cricket over the last couple of years. The way that Brendon's leading us from the front, showing confidence in every player in the squad, it's helping each individual be able to perform on the international stage."