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Five England players to look for in New Zealand: Inspirational skipper Ben Stokes should lead by example

After an excellent 3-0 Test series win in Pakistan in December, England bid to continue their superb form during a two-match series in New Zealand.

England have won nine of their 10 Tests since former New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum took over as coach last year, playing a thrilling brand of red-ball cricket, and things are looking positive ahead of the Ashes this summer - a series England are 6/5 to win in the To Win Outright market.

Before then, England have a two-match series in New Zealand to focus on and we have picked out five players who could help them extend that hot streak against the Black Caps.

WhatNew Zealand v England, Test series
WhereMount Maunganui and Wellington, New Zealand
WhenFirst Test starts 01:00, Thursday 16th February
How to watchBT Sport 1
OddsNew Zealand 21/10, England 6/4

Ben Stokes

Coach McCullum and captain Ben Stokes have formed a dynamic alliance, rejuvenating the England Test side, and New Zealand-born all-rounder Stokes will be eager to impress in the first Test in Mount Maunganui and the second match in Wellington.

England have drawn five and lost two of their last seven Tests in New Zealand but their ultra-aggressive approach of the past 12 months usually takes the stalemate out of the equation.

Stokes made 46 and 75 not out in a terrific win over the Kiwis at Trent Bridge last summer, also smashing 41 off 18 balls in his first innings of the Pakistan series, but he will want to improve on a tally of just nine wickets in nine Tests against New Zealand at an average of 76.

The skipper is impossible to keep out of the action, however, and his only wicket in the three Tests against Pakistan was the crucial one of home skipper Babar Azam, helping England pull off an improbable victory in the series opener in Rawalpindi.

Harry Brook

England's white-ball captain Jos Buttler was recently asked who was the most exciting young player in world cricket and, without hesitation, he named Harry Brook.

Just 12 months into his international career, Yorkshire batsman Brook has already won a T20 World Cup and enjoyed an extraordinary series in Pakistan, where he scored 153, 87, nine, 108 and 111.

His ability to adapt his game to the match situation is hugely impressive and he is confident enough to bring his T20 swagger to the Test team.

Brook is unlikely to be overawed by the challenge of a series in New Zealand – he hit five sixes in a single over during an innings of 97 in England's warm-up game in Hamilton – and the right-hander, who celebrates his 24th birthday during this series, should be a fixture in England's middle-order for years to come.

Ben Duckett

Brook already seems to have established himself in the England Test team and opener Ben Duckett will be aiming to follow suit after a strong tour of Pakistan.

Duckett made his Test debut in Bangladesh in 2016 but had a long wait before getting another crack and will be determined to fight fire with fire in his duel with New Zealand's new-ball bowlers.

The punchy left-hander prospered in Pakistan, where his six innings included scores of 107, 63, 79 and an unbeaten 82, which steered England to their victory target in the final Test.

Conditions will be very different in New Zealand, where seam and swing trouble batters more than spin, but Duckett is an experienced first-class campaigner, averaging 72 for Nottinghamshire in last year's County Championship, and he has a great opportunity to nail down a place at the top of the order.

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Jack Leach

Jack Leach suffered a serious illness on England's last Test visit to New Zealand but the spinner should have a happier tour after a productive 2022 in five-day cricket.

Only Australia's Nathan Lyon and South Africa's Kagiso Rabada, two modern-day greats, took more Test wickets than Leach last year and the left-arm slow bowler starts the New Zealand series with a solid record of 110 scalps in 32 matches.

While he has bowled consistently well on spin-friendly pitches in Sri Lanka, India and Pakistan, he will not expect as much assistance from the tracks in New Zealand.

However, Leach is a calm, canny operator who has progressed well since his last game in New Zealand, when he took 2-153 off 47 overs as the hosts piled up 615-9 declared in Mount Maunganui.

Stuart Broad

Conditions in New Zealand tend to suit English-style seamers and Olly Stone, Matthew Potts and Ollie Robinson are among the pace-bowling options for Stokes, along with veterans James Anderson and Stuart Broad.

With Jofra Archer and Chris Woakes also fit again, Broad will be aware of the competition for places for this summer's Ashes series and he has flourished under the McCullum-Stokes regime.

He took 6-51 in a 2013 draw in Wellington, venue for the second Test, and kept things tight with 0-64 off 33 overs as New Zealand made hay in Mount Maunganui in 2019.

At the age of 36, Broad knows he cannot let his performance levels drop and his last Test appearance yielded match figures of 7-86 in September's victory over South Africa at The Oval.

England's new approach certainly suits his gung-ho batting too. Broad has scored his runs at a strike-rate of 97 per 100 balls since McCullum took charge, compared with 65.5 over the course of his whole career, so don't be surprised to see more cameo innings such as his 42 off 36 against New Zealand at Headingley last June.

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