NZ XI hope to put England on back foot
Captain Andy Ellis is challenging his New Zealand XI to put England on the back foot in their tour opener in Whangarei today.
The teams contest a T20, starting at 5pm, though wet weather may play a role. They have a rematch set for the same venue at 2pm on Wednesday.
Ellis, who has also been recalled to the Black Caps squad, sees these warm-ups as a dual opportunity - for New Zealand players to get a look at the English, and to put some early doubts into the tourists' minds.
The Black Caps open their account against the English in the first of three T20s at Auckland's Eden Park on Saturday night.
"We have to see ourselves as possibly spoilers for the start of the tour," Ellis said in Whangarei.
"It would be fantastic to put them on the back foot and for the Black Caps to take some momentum from that."
Ellis, newcomer Hamish Rutherford, Ross Taylor, Colin Munro, and Ian Butler will all front today and Wednesday, and then slip on their Black Caps uniforms at the weekend.
Ellis said this was a huge opportunity, describing England as "world leaders in most forms of the game" at the moment.
Rutherford will get plenty of attention as he takes a significant step-up in his young and blossoming career.
And there will be plenty of attention on Taylor.
The classy right-hander needs to get back in the groove. He has had a less-than-spectacular return to action with Central Districts after making himself unavailable for the tour of South Africa following his axing as Black Caps skipper.
But Taylor has proven he is a "man for the moment" and the challenge of international cricket will surely invigorate him.
England confirmed skipper Stuart Broad (heel) and Alex Wright (hand) would be fit for action.
Broad has been putting in plenty of bowling in the nets and at open wicket practice since England arrived last week, to test his nagging injury that curtailed his recent tour of India.