Facing a fiery and in-form New Zealand outfit as a warm-up for yet another Ashes series is exactly the kind of high-calibre opponent England need this summer. The only tragedy is that the Kiwis will only be here for two Tests.
Nonetheless, 10 (potential) days of red-ball cricket against the well-led Black Caps should be enough to turn the sport’s narrative away from the Kevin Pietersen saga, providing the side fare well of course.
Four Tests without defeat and a one-day campaign that resulted in the World Cup runners-up spot proves New Zealand to be tough opponents. Understandably, members of the 15/8 series outsiders feature heavily in our list of three to watch:
Guptill isn’t actually a man in possession of one of the two opening spots for the visitors, having last played in a five-day game for his country two years ago.
However, the 28-year-old has made a compelling case for inclusion over Tom Latham or Hamish Rutherford in the lead up to the first Test at Lord’s.
Hot on the heels of his World Cup double-hundred, Guptill has made another 200 (227 to be precise) for Derbyshire in the County Championship, before getting 150 for the New Zealanders in the tour match with Worcester.
The off-spinner has enjoyed his two appearances in England since arriving for the tour, cashing in during both second innings to take 10 wickets over the course of the warm-up matches.
A guarantee to start both games, Craig rates a solid bet after adapting quickly to Test cricket, where he has taken 31 wickets in his eight games.
If KP were to have muscled his way back in to the fold for this series, Ballance was figured to be one of the men most at risk of the chop.
It would have been harsh on the Yorkshireman, though, as he has continued to prove his worth to the side since following in Jonathan Trott’s footsteps at number three.
Ballance scored two fifties and a hundred in the three-Test tour of the West Indies last month and already has four tons to his name in the format in just 11 outings.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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