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International Cricket - England v New Zealand: Series Preview

It's a new dawn for English Test cricket with a new skipper and a new head coach hoping to bring back the good times to a nation who sit bottom of the World Test Championship standings and at their lowest ebb for decades.

Rob Key, the recently-appointed managing director of England men's cricket, has told Test fans to "buckle up and get ready for the ride" after appointing first Ben Stokes as skipper and then Brendon McCullum head coach of a Test side in the absolute doldrums.

But while those same fans would certainly be cheered by Key's enthusiasm, it's wins as much as entertainment they crave with England stuck in their worst rut since the 1980s.

Champions' test for new-look England

First up for England is a three-match home series against the world Test champions New Zealand, a country who McCullum, of course, represented with distinction for over a decade.

The action starts at Lord's on Thursday, 2nd June, and there's a show of faith in new-look England, who are 11/10 to win the series with the Black Caps at 8/5, the draw at 4/1. You can follow the action via our Sports Live Streaming platform.

England are 6/5 to win at Lord's, New Zealand are 2/1. The weather forecast looks decent enough to make the draw seem poor value at 11/4.

Once upon a time, a home series in early summer against New Zealand – or anyone for that matter – would have been deemed a home banker, with England's army of medium-pacers seaming the ball everywhere in helpful conditions against bemused opponents.

But pitches are better these days, so too the opposition, certainly New Zealand who may no longer have McCullum smashing the ball everywhere at the front of the innings, but Kane Williamson's men are world champs for a reason.

And let's not forget, England have failed to win any of their last five Test series – home or away – with just a solitary Test match success in their last 17 outings.

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Kings are dead; long live the kings

One of Key's first messages when he took over was that he would be picking the best team rather than managing workloads, which has meant a recall for venerable pace aces Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad.

Adhering to the principle that if you're good enough, you're young enough, Anderson, 39, and Broad, 35, new-ball aces with a combined 1,177 Test wickets between them, were outspoken after being left out of the dismal winter tour of the West Indies.

Both said they had more to offer and Key agreed, though recalling them was made easier by the unavailability of the likes of Jofra Archer, Mark Wood, Chris Woakes, Olly Stone and Ollie Robinson.

Now, of course, the ageless duo need to prove themselves against Williamson – who has not played Test cricket since November because of an elbow problem – and a Kiwis' side who were skittled for a paltry 148 against a County Select XI at Chelmsford in their final warm-up match.

New dawn on hold for time being

What is clear is that while there is inevitably going to be a new feel, and maybe a new direction, under Key, McCullum and Stokes, for now the revolution seems muted.

The fact that McCullum himself was away in the IPL with Kolkata Knight Riders until last week meant a barrage of new ideas haven’t been forthcoming. The recalls for Broad and Anderson were obvious while outgoing skipper Joe Root hasn't left the scene, indeed he's still very much the one and only world-class batsman in the England ranks.

The squad for the first two matches contained eight of the men who were thumped by West Indies in England's last outing in Grenada with Matthew Potts and Harry Brook the only two, true new faces getting summoned.

And McCullum, when asked on Saturday about future sides, insisted the door was also wide open for the likes of recently-retired Moeen Ali, plus Adil Rashid and Jos Buttler, all relics of England's undistinguished recent past but apparently far from past their sell-by date with the incoming head coach.

So if the whiff of revolution is in the air then it's off to an under-stated start.

Can Grenada's batting woes be overcome?

The appointment of McCullum was a surprise to many though less so the elevation of Stokes. The upshot is a largely maverick duo with one-day leanings taking charge of England who actually need to be getting back to five-day basics against New Zealand. And that means putting runs on the board.

In Grenada last time out, England were skittled for 204 and 120 en route to a humiliating 10-wicket loss. Ten times in the last calendar year they have been bowled out for under 200 and that is beyond uncompetitive.

Top-order runs are critical at Lord's to set the tone so it maybe an issue that England's first challenge of their new era is to repel arguably the finest red-ball pace attack in the world.

If there's help in the pitch for England's seamers then you can rest assured Trent Boult, Tim Southee, Neil Wagner and Kyle Jamieson will find it as well.

If you're thinking positively about that prospect and prospects for the series as a whole then it's 15/2 an England clean sweep over the Kiwis.

If the ghosts of Grenada haven't been exorcised and England remain a basket case, then you can get 12/1 that New Zealand win 3-0.

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