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Saturday, 15 December, 2018

Wily James Anderson can help England get back in the swing

Tourists can expose chinks in Kiwis' batting

England bowler James Anderson in action against New Zealand Cricket XI
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Series preview

You would be forgiven for thinking the Ashes has a monopoly over Test cricket.

No sooner had England’s dejected cricketers traipsed off the SCG infield after a 4-0 hiding, thoughts had already turned to how they could regain the urn in 2019.

There is, however, the small matter of three overseas tours, two home series and a World Cup in England before Anglo-Australian battlelines are redrawn in 16 months.

And that arduous schedule begins with the conclusion of their current five-month Antipodean adventure in the form of a two-Test series with New Zealand.

New Zealand has been a happy hunting ground for the Three Lions, who have lost just one of 18 Test series there since first visiting in 1929. In that period they have won 18 of 47 Tests and lost on only four occasions.

Winning away is becoming an increasingly rare occurrence in Test cricket but New Zealand conditions are the closest to those in England, which will come as a welcome relief for Joe Root's side after their chastening experience on the fiery pitches of Australia.

After a winter devoid of any lateral movement with the ball, James Anderson and Stuart Broad should get the swinging conditions in which they excel while the tourists’ batting unit - which still has questions to answer - will not face the constant barrage of short balls from Australian quicks.

The return of Ben Stokes will offer Joe Root balance with bat and ball and he gave a timely reminder of what England were missing in Australia during the recent ODI series with the Kiwis.

That five-match contest, which England won 3-2, could be the best guide as to what is likely happen over the two Tests.

At multiple times in those matches England had a hold over the New Zealand batting line-up and were it not for the batting exploits of Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor, the scoreline could have been more convincing in the tourists' favour. With their premier bowlers Anderson & Broad well rested since the Ashes defeat, England could further exploit that area of weakness.

Despite reaching the twilight of his career Anderson remains England's most potent bowling weapon and was one of just a handful of players to leave Australia with his reputation intact.

In conditions that do not play to his strengths and in which he has struggled before, Anderson showcased all his nous and guile to lead England's wicket-taking with 17 victims in the series - six clear of Broad.

Anderson has taken 18 wickets in five Tests in New Zealand and with New Zealand's middle-order frailties and a day-night match in Auckland in which he will definitely get the swinging conditions he thrives in, he looks sure to play a crucial role.

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New Zealand has been a happy hunting ground for the Three Lions who have lost just one of 18 Test series there since first visiting in 1929
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