sport

England ready for NZ tests

England may secretly spare a thought for their embattled hosts as they fine-tune preparations for their upcoming clashes with New Zealand.

It was only last summer that they had to take the field overshadowed by intrigue and aggravation surrounding Kevin Pietersen's uncertain international future, against South Africa for the Lord's Test and then for the defence of their World Twenty20 title in Sri Lanka.

Those problems appear long behind England now, with Pietersen due here at the end of this month for the start of the Test series on the back of his triumphant return in India.

New Zealand, instead, are grappling with their own variant of a Pietersen-style controversy.

Former captain Ross Taylor has taken his first tentative steps back into the fold, in the Eden Park nets, having been picked to face England in both limited-overs formats.

The 28-year-old's return follows his decision to sit out New Zealand's tour of South Africa, after coach Mike Hesson made it clear he no longer wanted him as captain and much preferred Brendon McCullum.

Taylor therefore had to spend seven minutes after practice at Eden Park, venue on Saturday for the first of three Twenty20s against England, insisting he and Hesson in particular are back on an even keel.

For his near opposite number in the England team, a breakdown of relations such as that depicted between Hesson and Taylor is unthinkable.

Eoin Morgan will be thankful if he never finds himself anywhere near such an unenviable situation.

"I think I'd find it difficult if I didn't get along with the coach," said the Irishman.

"You spend a lot of time with each other, and your coach is normally someone you seek advice from.

"For me, it would be crucial to get along with my coach."

Fortunately for Morgan, life is currently following a happier and simpler path.

He would like to have fared better with the bat during England's 3-2 one-day international defeat in India last month; ideally, he would also have preferred a second successive victory over a New Zealand XI, rather than the narrow defeat the tourists suffered in Whangarei in their final warm-up match yesterday.

On the other hand, Morgan's last three Twenty20 innings for his country have brought him scores of 49, 48 and 51 - without being dismissed - in his specialist middle-order position. He is feeling so at home there, in fact, as to lay public claim to a degree of longevity.

"I'm quite happy where I am. The role I play I think I've done really well since I've come into the team.

"From here onwards, that's the position I think I've sort of made my own and can win games for England batting there."

Morgan cannot be quite so sure about his ODI future. Indeed, with the rested Jonathan Trott set to be back at number three and Joe Root staking the most pressing claim among England's emerging 50-over players, a few more handy Twenty20 scores will not go amiss against New Zealand.

"I always feel the need to perform, especially with the very successful England side we have," Morgan said.

"You always feel under pressure for your place.

"Guys like Jos (Buttler) and Joe have come in and played fantastically well.

"Having practised and played with them for the last six months, it's great to see them getting out there on the big stage and performing."

They and Morgan can approach the forthcoming series with a spring in their step and clear minds.

Taylor, however, is unlikely to have either of those luxuries.

Instead, he is facing a barrage of tricky questions.

Do you have any regrets?

"Not really."

Will your game be affected?

"Until I play, I won't know."

Given the chance the destructive batsman was still able to put a positive spin on events.

"I always enjoy representing my country, and hope I can do that with some pride over the next six weeks of this tour," he said.

"I've got friends in the team and I'm looking forward to playing for them, and obviously the management and the country as well.

"I can't speak for anyone else; I can only say what I see myself, and I haven't seen anything untoward towards me.

"I've just been acting like my normal self, so I don't think there's anything there."

New Zealand need Taylor, of course, as much as he needs them - and he insists he is prepared to do as he is told for the common good.

"I'll bat wherever I'm put, and sit wherever I'm sat," he added.

"I just want to be out there and play some cricket. I don't know how good I'll be, but I'll give it my best."

He will do so with a little wishful thinking thrown in as well.

"I hope I can just go out there and enjoy myself.

"You've just got to get on with it. It is what it is. I'm sure come Saturday it will be forgotten."