ENGLAND captain Alastair Cook is hoping the three One-Day Internationals against New Zealand, which kick-off at Lord’s today, act as momentum builders for the ICC Champions Trophy and Ashes series which follow immeditaly on.
“We’ve got three games here in this very important series, then the Champions Trophy and we want to win as many of those games as possible,” said Cook.
“Winning breeds confidence and any time you have recent success over an opposition you take confidence. It’s a really good test in our conditions.”
Surrey seamer Jade Dernbach has been added to England’s squad for the series against the Black Caps.
Dernbach will provide cover for Yorkshire’s Tim Bresnan, whose wife is expected to give birth during the three-match NatWest Series.
Bresnan has not played for England since January’s one-day series in India, after which he was sent for an elbow operation.
He has been back in action for Yorkshire, but England will be hoping to see him in international action before the start of the Champions Trophy.
England’s first game of the tournament, against Sri Lanka in Cardiff, is just four days after the final ODI against New Zealand.
New Zealand have their own bowling concerns with paceman Trent Boult out of the NatWest Series, and almost certainly the Champions Trophy too, because of a tear in his side. He will be replaced for the former by Ian Butler.
And former Kiwi skipper and main spnner Daniel Vettori is preparing to take a step into the unknown as he puts his recovery from long-term injury to the test today. He has not played international cricket since the ICC World Twenty20 last September and his last one-day international was at the World Cup, more than a year before that.
A plan to deploy him against England at Headingley last week, after his fellow left-arm spinner Bruce Martin hurt his calf, didn’t work out. Vettori said: “I think it was just a call to get me over and see how things were. But it’s been a long time since I bowled more than ten overs really. So it was too much of a stretch.”
As for his ODI return, Vettori admits doubts will remain about his fitness until he proves he can get through a series.
“I’ve only bowled a couple of times in domestic games as well, so there’s a little bit of trepidation going into it.”
That is not the case, however, for New Zealand collectively who, after their 2-0 Test series defeat, remain convinced they have a much better chance of beating England in limited-overs matches.
“This is a completely different format and there’s a more comfortable feel with the one-dayers,” Vettori added.
“The guys know their game and have put in some good performances.
“I think the guys go into this format a lot more comfortable, and that’s been the same for a number of years. There’s a lot of experienced one-day internationals [players] coming back into the team. I think that helps. A lot of the guys feel pretty good about their one-day game.”
There have been occasions when Vettori wondered if injury would permanently cut short his career.
“You contemplate it. But I hope I’m still youngish, and can get a few more years out,” the 34-year-old said. “It’s more when you’re on the constant grind of playing, day after day in all three formats and going away to Twenty20 tournaments, that it becomes a bit harder.
“When you’re away from the game, it probably rejuvenates your love of it – and you actually want to get back into it.”
Vettori’s only game time this summer was against a Northamptonshire Select XI.
He bagged five wickets and 150 runs – but as he cited “batting, bowling, running and fielding” as the activities most likely to aggravate his Achilles, his ability to stay fit is still unchartered territory.