WELLINGTON (AFP) – A depleted New Zealand under new captain Tim Southee face the daunting prospect of trying to halt in-form England when a two-Test series begins with a day-night encounter in Mount Maunganui tomorrow.
England have won nine of 10 Tests since New Zealander Brendon McCullum took charge as head coach, with the Black Caps the first to suffer under his attacking “Bazball” revolution last year. England will be favourites to inflict similar treatment on Southee’s side in the fast bowler’s maiden home series as skipper.
Preparations for both sides have been disrupted by a cyclone which hit New Zealand and triggered a state of emergency yesterday, but the Test is expected to go ahead.
England, with Ben Stokes taking charge, swept the home series 3-0 against New Zealand in June as the new skipper-coach regime signalled their attacking intent by easily chasing down more than 275 in the final innings of all three Tests.
The New Zealand-born Stokes then led England to a Test victory over India and a 2-1 series win against South Africa.
His side enter this series with confidence sky-high after an unprecedented 3-0 sweep in Pakistan, while New Zealand have failed to win in their last five Tests, beginning with the three in England.
New Zealand drew both of their most recent Tests in Pakistan and Southee will have to lead an inexperienced attack without Kyle Jamieson.