England favourites to beat New Zealand, says Mike Atherton

Vulnerable

New Zealand have got a youngish bowling attack - Tim Southee, Trent Boult, Neil Wagner, Doug Bracewell should all be around for a little while.

So you'd say the bowling is on the upgrade and it's an attack that has the potential to be together for some time.

Theyv'e got some exciting batsmen in McCullum and Ross Taylor but also players who you feel might be more vulnerable if there is more lateral movement in the air and off the pitch than there was in New Zealand.

Peter Fulton played superbly in Auckland but England feel he is a bit vulnerable when the ball moves; Rutherford is a fine young player but hasn't played much cricket here, nor has Dean Brownlie.

Kane Williamson is a very good player; his could be the key wicket, actually, because of his ability and his experience of playing in English conditions with Gloucestershire.

New Zealand have got a lot of good players but England should still start as favourites. It's very cold - almost artic - here at Lord's and if it's like this on Thursday it's a moot point whether the ball will swing.

One thing's for sure - England can't get any less movement than they did in Dunedin and Auckland where it didn't go off the straight in the air or off the pitch. You've got to expect a bit more movement than that at Lord's and Headingley in May.

Pugnacious

If anyone can find it, then James Anderson can and it will be a wonderful achievement when he claims the two Test wickets he needs to join Ian Botham, Bob Willis and Fred Trueman in the '300 club'.

He's in elite company despite going through some ups and downs as an England cricketer; he had one or two issues with his action in the early days when people said it was too unorthodox to succeed.

But he has become a highly-skilled bowler now and was rightfully one of the candidates for this week's England Player of the Year award, which went to Matt Prior.

Alastair Cook must have been close to winning that award as well after his outstanding form with the bat and his leadership in India, where England won for the first time in many, many years.

Kevin Pietersen played three great innings in the year - his hundreds at Headingley, Mumbai and Colombo were great innings - but some of the off-field issues knocked him out of contention, I guess.

Prior had an excellent year; he's been consistently outstanding with the gloves and has largely been a pugnacious, aggressive performer at number seven - and utterly selfless in the way that he plays.

He's a vital part of this England team now and the award is well deserved as is the vice-captaincy, which he has retained despite the return of Broad. That shows just how important he is to this team.

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Comments (1)

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James Lancaster says...

Friday's pre-lunch play at Lords. Before he was out caught down the leg side by the wicket keeper, Root had attempted that shot at least twice without making contact with the ball. The first time he did so, I sensed danger for him and so it proved. He wasn't unlucky as was said , but obviously didn't see the danger in that stroke.

Posted 13:46 17th May 2013

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