Auckland: It will be battle for one-upmanship between hosts New Zealand and England as a lengthy series gets underway with the first of three Twenty20 internationals at Auckland's Eden Park on Saturday. With three matches in each format lined up over the next seven weeks, getting familiar with the opposition's strengths and weakness should be a focal point for both teams starting February 9.
New Zealand go into the series after a gap from the tough tour of South Africa, which ended with a 2-1 ODI series success; England have regroup after a 3-2 ODI defeat to India. New Zealand have welcomed back Ross Taylor after a self-imposed break following his removal as Test captain. England will be buoyed by the return of Twenty20 captain Stuart Broad after an injury that has ruled him out of international duty since November. Both sides will be reliant on their experienced players in a Twenty20 series with plenty of fresh faces on both sides, so getting Taylor and Broad firing will be key.
Taylor and Brendon McCullum remain the two biggest players for New Zealand whose batting has been average of late, with Kane Williamson the most consistent. With injuries to Grant Elliott and Ian Buttler, the Otago allrounder Jimmy Neesham was a late call-up to the squad and should slot into the XI. Neesham's Otago team-mate, the uncapped 23-year-old batsman Hamish Rutherford, could get a debut at the top with Rob Nicol axed.
Ross Taylor, back in the side after a self-imposed break, and returning T20 captain Stuart Broad are key for New Zealand and England respectively in the series starting Saturday.
England's XI should resemble that which featured in the three warm-up Twenty20 matches. Jos Buttler has been the most impressive batsmen on tour with two fifties in as many innings, while Eoin Morgan's form will be heartening for the tourists. More will be expected of opener Alex Hales, however, who has made six runs in two innings so far. Joe Root looks likely to miss out, with the spin duties to be shared by James Tredwell and Samit Patel.
England have won five of the past six Twenty20 internationals played against New Zealand. The hosts are a dangerous team in the format, though, so it does not look like being a one-sided series.
New Zealand: 1 Martin Guptill, 2 Hamish Rutherford, 3 Brendon McCullum (capt/wk), 4 Ross Taylor, 5 Colin Munro, 6 James Franklin, 7 Jimmy Neesham, 8 Nathan McCullum, 9 Mitchell McClenaghan, 10 Andrew Ellis, 11 Ronnie Hira
England: 1 Michael Lumb, 2 Alex Hales, 3 Luke Wright, 4 Jonny Bairstow, 5 Eoin Morgan, 6 Jos Buttler (wk), 7 Samit Patel, 8 Stuart Broad (capt), 9 James Tredwell, 10 Steven Finn, 11 Jade Dernbach