England, Kiwis look forward to first Test

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='http://www.ndtv.com/convergence/images/thumbnail/ver1/C/Cricket.jpg' class='caption'> Marcus Trescothick will captain his country for the first time in a test match on Thursday when England face New Zealand at Lord's.

Updated: February 25, 2007 10:06 IST
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Marcus Trescothick will captain his country for the first time in a test match on Thursday when England face New Zealand in the first game of another busy English summer. Preparations for the opening test match of the English summer were well underway at Lord's cricket ground in London on Wednesday. England's early-season preparations, however, were not as smooth as those of the groundstaff at the home of cricket. The 3-0 Test series victory in the West Indies earlier in the year was a distant memory for England coach Duncan Fletcher, when it was confirmed that captain Michael Vaughan would miss the first Test against New Zealand with a knee injury. On Wednesday Marcus Trescothick was named as his replacement. The left-handed opener, captain in a handful of one-day internationals, will lead his country for the first time in a Test match at the revered ground. "Yes, I am quite happy to take over and do the job (England captaincy). Obviously Mike (Michael Vaughan) is the guy who is in charge full time and hopefully he will be back for the next Test but I am quite happy to take the job on and do it for one game, albeit a very important game for us," said England's stand-in captain Marcus Trescothick. Opening slot Andrew Strauss is tipped to open the batting with Trescothick in place of Vaughan, but, with that exception, the England side is expected to mirror the preferred line-up from the Caribbean. Fast bowler Steve Harmison, Man of the Series in the West Indies, will have his sights set on another fruitful spell, while England will once again look to their own 'old fathers' to steady the ship. Experienced middle order batsmen Nasser Hussain and Graham Thorpe, with 25 years of test experience between them, look set to play through the majority of the summer. Hussain, 36 earlier this year, is expected to play his 96th test match on Thursday. If his run in the team continues, the former captain will reach one hundred test appearances for his country in the series against the West Indies later in the year. Promising talent England's first visitors this year are a New Zealand team with a growing reputation. Well coached by John Bracewell, and exceptionally well led by Stephen Fleming, the Black Caps fully deserve their place as the fifth-best test team in the world, just one point behind India in fourth and two points behind England in third. With promising young talent at the disposal of cricket's most experienced captain, it is unsurprising that things are starting to work for the Kiwis. "I think as we come here we are a lot more comfortable about the team we have brought over and looking forward to what will be a good series because I think both teams in a way are similar in their make-up and similar in their past records, perhaps in the last six months in particular," said Stephen Fleming, New Zealand captain. The Black Caps, by their own admission, may need time to adjust to English conditions and there will be added pressure on the bowlers that have made the trip before. The loss of express fast bowler Shane Bond to a recurring injury has not helped. All-rounder Chris Cairns is invaluable to their cause, and paceman Daryl Tuffey and the orthodox left-arm spinner Daniel Vettori will hold the trump cards if they hope to bowl their hosts out twice and win test matches. New Zealand's recent one-day series victory and test series draw versus South Africa is indicative of the strides made by the Black Caps. Fleming views the upcoming series against England as crucial in gauging how well New Zealand cricket, and England cricket for that matter, has developed in the last 12 months. "I think this series is going to give us a pretty good indication of where we are in world standings. England, I think, are in a similar position. They are looking to consolidate after a good winter and the best place to do that is at home. From that point of view I find it very intriguing when the wash finishes up where we lie," Fleming said. England and New Zealand face each other in the first of three test matches at Lord's starting on Thursday. Teams England Squad: Marcus Trescothick (captain), Andrew Strauss, Mark Butcher, Nasser Hussain, Graham Thorpe, Paul Collingwood, Andrew Flintoff, Geraint Jones (wicketkeeper), Ashley Giles, Simon Jones, Steve Harmison, Matthew Hoggard, James Anderson. New Zealand Starting Line-Up - Stephen Fleming, Mark Richardson, Nathan Astle, Scott Styris, Chris Cairns, Brendon McCullum (wicketkeeper), Craig McMillan, Jacob Oram, Daniel Vettori, Daryl Tuffey, Chris Martin. Umpires: Daryl Harper, Australia, and Rudy Koertzen, South Africa; Third umpire - Mark Benson, England; Match referee: Clive Lloyd, West Indies.

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