The two test England/New Zealand Test series which begins in London on Thursday is the first of the English summer, and a tough precursor to the Ashes for England

Recommendation

New Zealand to win the England Test Series at 15/13 888Sport (Draw no bet)

After the disappointment of failing to win the three match series in the West Indies, New Zealand are difficult opponents for Egland at the start of the test summer in early season English conditions

England are a side in flux. They have undoubted strengths, the middle order of Ballance,Bell and Root scored heavily in the Caribbean and James Anderson was the top wicket taker in the series. Elsewhere in the team though there remain question-marks.

Ashley Lyth comes in as Alistair Cook’s opening partner after Jonathan Trott’s unhappy tour and subsequent retirement. Lyth enjoyed an outstanding 2014 with 1489 Championship runs at an average of 67.68 as Yorkshire won their first title since 2001 and will be the sixth post-Strauss Cook opening partner. None of the other five players tried – Nick Compton, Joe Root, Michael Carberry, Sam Robson and Trott – have lasted more than nine Tests.

Anderson apart, the bowling attack has more question-marks than reliability. Broad and Jordan in the seam bowling ranks for example, supplemented for Lords by Durham’s Mark Wood, flattered to deceive in the Caribbean and in the spin bowling department Egland have to rely on Ali and Root, with no long term replacement for Swann on the horizon

New Zealand are tricky customers, on the back of their excellent World Cup performance. In Boult, Southee and Wagner they have an effective seam bowling line up and a batting line up of Guptill, Rutherford, Williamson, Taylor and McCullum is both talented and experienced

So why are England favourites for both the first Test and Series? The answer to this could be the difficulty for touring sides playing Tests in England in May but this time there would appear to be more questions around the England team than New Zealand’s. Perhaps the answer lies in history. New Zealand have won one from their previous eight away series and have failed to win a Test in their last nine attempts in England, but this is a more formidable New Zealand team than any of those line ups.

Perhaps it is due to lack of preparation. The International calendar is so crowded that this has two knock on effects for touring sides. Warm up games are few, and key players are elsewhere. For New Zealand they have played Somerset and Worcestershire relying on players outside the touring party to make up numbers whilst Brendon McCullum, Tim Southee, Trent Boult and Kane Williamson are still playing in the IPL, in conditions hugely different from Lords in May

This might suggest that New Zealand may not hit the ground running in the first Test and with it only being a two test series that might mitigate against backing them at an otherwise attractive 11/5 with Bet365 for the series. Instead the 15/13 888Sport offer on New Zealand winning the series “Draw no bet” might be the wiser choice, allowing a back-stop if they do start slowly. I would expect them to be right into the swing of things for the second test at Headingley and showing that they are the stronger team from 1 to 11

Recommendation

New Zealand to win the England Test Series at 15/13 888Sport (Draw no bet)