London - In their traditionally under-stated fashion New Zealand have been content to
stay in the background before the two-test series against England.
While the hosts' buildup has been overshadowed by the axing of coach Peter
Moores and more controversy over Kevin Pietersen, the Kiwis have quietly gone
about their preparations.
The New Zealand players do not even have to report for duty until two days
before the first test at Lord's starting on Thursday because of their Indian
Premier League commitments.
But they will be full of confidence having enjoyed two years of almost
unbroken success since they were dismissed for 45 by South Africa in Cape Town
in early 2013.
In 2014 they won five tests in a year for the first time and have climbed to
third in the world test rankings.
With Brendon McCullum setting the tone at the top of the order with
astonishing innings of brutal aggression, they progressed to the World Cup final
for the first time this year before succumbing to co-hosts Australia in
McCullum became the first New Zealander to pass 300 in a Test innings last
year during a monumental exhibition of concentration against India in
He fell for 195 against Sri Lanka in Christchurch with the record for the
fastest Test double hundred at his mercy.
His 33 Test sixes were more than double the previous best and he became the
first New Zealander to score 1 000 runs in a calendar year.
Leading from the front in all forms of the game, McCullum has become the
most innovative and enterprising captain in international cricket.
Tim Southee and Trent Boult have been acclaimed by the country's finest
cricketer Richard Hadlee as the best opening attack to represent New Zealand
and Kane Williamson is on course to break all his nation's batting records.
England won 2-0 at home two years ago but the New Zealanders have not lost a
series since and they opened their tour with a comfortable win over Somerset.
"It was a little scratchy at times but there were enough good
things," coach Mike Hesson said.
"The tempo with the bat was good and some of the guys got runs but I
thought with the ball we were a bit inconsistent."
Opening batsman Martin Guptill, who hit a world record 237 not out against
West Indies in the World Cup, is set to return to the Test arena. He warmed up
for the first test nicely by scoring 150 in the victory over Worcestershire.