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  1. Oops, despite this going on in my backyard, I've managed to forget to neglect to start a new thread until the Test series is upon us. The tests do mean one thing though... the return of The Ghost. No, wait, they don't. He's not in the squad. Bugger. So, England take both the Twenty20 and ODI series two games to one. Both series had two England wallopings and one close one where NZ crept home. Now we move onto the longer format, which in recent years has been NZ's weakest form of the game. For England, the big question is whether to persist with Nick Compton in the opener's slot after his solid, but unexceptional tour of India, or whether to promote Root to open the batting with Cook, following his extraordinary run for England in all forms of the game. Presumably, if Compton was omitted, Bairstow would come back in at #6, giving him a chance to face some quality quick bowling and build on his promising performance against South Africa way back at Lords. Personally, I'd give Compton another crack at the top - Root has shown he can bat wherever, so let's have him fill the troubled #6 spot. In the bowling ranks, Broad is back to match fitness and looked good during the short formats. Anderson is a shoo-in, and Finn has now surely cemented his test place. With Bresnan and Tremlett still crocked, we're probably looking at the reliable quartet of Anderson, Finn, Broad and Swann. Despite his superb showing in India, I can't see Monty getting a game in NZ's rather English conditions, especially with creditable part-time options of Root and Pietersen. For New Zealand, it's all gone a bit pear shaped. Both their usual openers are gone - Guptill is crocked, after taking NZ over the line on one leg and two toes, and McCullum has (sensibly) decided to drop down the order to #5. They're bringing back eternal nearly-man Peter Fulton, AKA Two Meter Peter, and he'll be partnered by either Tom Latham or Hamish Rutherford, both promising youngish prospects. Taylor's back after his brief (justified) sulk after being stripped of the captaincy, and will join the pure class that is Kane Williamson, but drinky middle-order powerhouse Jesse Ryder has made himself unavailable, which is a real shame for the competitiveness of the series. Watch out for BJ Watling, NZ's latest Wicketkeeper Batsman - I think he's fricking great. The bowling looks much better, at least in the pace department. Southee, who always feels a bit like a cut-price Stuart Broad, has been much more impressive in the last 12 months, and Bracewell and Boult have both been fantastic finds. It's possible NZ's own South African import, Neil Wagner, may also join the team to make a 4-man all-pace attack. Spin-wise, the only candidate is Bruce Martin, a 32-year old NZ domestic journeyman. Vettori is still crocked, although I'm not sure what Ronnie Hira has done wrong (or, for that matter, right). Fun random bits: There are four second-generation test cricketers in the two squads - Broad, Bairstow, Latham and Rutherford. NZ have an embarassment of wicket keepers. Either in the squad, or competing to be in it are McCullum, Watling, Latham and Luke Ronchi, the former Australia ODI/T20 keeper who decided he'd have more luck being a Kiwi. With England potentially fielding both Prior and Bairstow, it could be a glove-fest out there. Predictions: 3-0 England, sadly. Anderson to be man of the series with a redonkulous heap of wickets. NZ press to deservedly kick seven shades out of current management and cricket executive.
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