England v New Zealand: Alastair Cook expects closer second Test

England players celebrate

Second Test: England v New Zealand

24-28 May
Start time:
11:00 BST
Ball-by-ball Test Match Special commentary on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra, BBC Radio 4 LW & via BBC Sport website, mobiles and BBC Sport app; live text commentary on BBC Sport website, mobiles and app

England captain Alastair Cook expects a close-fought second Test, despite England's 170-run victory at Lord's.

England skittled New Zealand for just 68 on Sunday to win comfortably, despite having carried over only a 25-run lead from the first innings.

Cook said: "If you look at it without the emotive side of last week's game, it was nip and tuck for three days.

"We had to work very hard in those three days to get ourselves in a position to win the game."

The skipper, who made 32 and 21 as England set the tourists 239 to win, added: "We piled through that door pretty hard in the end - but we know how hard and tough this New Zealand side are."

Conditions at Lord's were more akin to those traditionally associated with Headingley - enough cloud cover to help the swing bowlers, and sufficient life in the pitch as the match wore on to trouble batsmen.

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Cook praises bowling attack

With pacemen James Anderson and Stuart Broad both bagging five-fors last week, that would suggest England could look forward to more of the same here.

But Headingley this year has been uncharacteristically kind to batsmen. Yorkshire rattled up 505-9 in in their last county match here, having made 677-7 in their previous innings.

Cook said: "Over the last couple of years there have been some high-scoring games here.

"If it's sunny, it can be a nice pitch to bat on and we will have to work hard in every session."

New Zealand had been hoping to recall former Test skipper Daniel Vettori as they seek the win that would level this two-match series, but current captain Brendon McCullum has confirmed that the 34-year-old has failed a fitness test and will not play.

It is 16 years since Vettori made his Test debut, but with fellow spinner Bruce Martin ruled out of the tour after suffering a calf injury at Lord's, Vettori had a chance to add to his 360 Test wickets. He would also have become New Zealand's most capped player, overtaking another former skipper, Stephen Fleming.

But Achilles problems have kept Vettori out of Test cricket since July last year, and he failed to make a single appearance for the Royal Challengers Bangalore in the recent Indian Premier League season.

In contrast to the tourists, England are likely to be unchanged from Lord's, with Yorkshire favourite Tim Bresnan again missing out in favour of Steve Finn as Cook's men look to find a settled team before the Ashes later this summer.

There were concerns once again at Lord's about the fragility of England's top order. A first-innings collapse saw them lose their last seven wickets for 75 runs, while in the second eight went down for 54.

Cook has pointed out that both sides struggled to make runs on that pitch under cloudy skies, and will keep faith with the same top six even as Kevin Pietersen's return from knee trouble appears certain to cost one of those batsmen his place in due course.

England have a good record against New Zealand on this ground, winning four of the six Tests between the two countries here and losing only once, 30 years ago.

The forecast over the next five days is mixed, with showers expected on Friday before the weather clears up over the weekend. Ticket sales are also no more than steady as the cricketing public focuses more on the forthcoming Ashes than this early-season series.

But Cook insists his team are looking no further forward than the next few days.

"It's very important as a team that you stay in the present. We know what's coming up in the summer, but we have to focus on this game and these five days," he said. "That's the way you have to operate, so that's how we will operate.

"Winning is vitally important - we want to win every game and series we're involved in. It sounds simple but it will take a lot of hard work."

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