We’re nearly through the first week of the tour and our first warm-up match against Derbyshire
. I’ve been pleasantly surprised that the sun’s been out nearly the whole time we’ve been here. It’s made our home for the last few days – the 700-year-old Breadsall Priory Hotel and Country Club
(complete with two golf courses which is torture for a golf fan who doesn't have time to play!) – even more picturesque.
It’s been good to use this first week to cement what we need to achieve to be competitive against England. The key for me on the batting front is always about forming meaningful partnerships throughout the order, starting from the top. In order to make totals that allow you to dominate the game, we need everyone capable of making a contribution with the bat. A key focus in the build-up to the tour was up skilling our bowlers with the bat, with many of them having aspirations of one day being considered genuine all-rounders. Assistant coach Bob Carter has been continuing the excellent work in this area he started over the summer.
For our seamers, it’s all about being able to sustain pace and intensity for a whole day, whole match and ultimately the whole series. This is where the strength and conditioning work Chris Donaldson does really shines through. Swinging the new ball and maintaining swing with the old ball is a real focus for Shane Bond and all our seamers throughout the tour. Even early season in England we can’t underestimate the value of having a quality spinner, and Bruce Martin has started the tour very well to continue his fine start to international cricket. Against Derbyshire, there’s been a pretty simple plan to continue our progress in the areas outlined above.
In terms of conditions, I’m expecting the pitches to be a little bit slower at this time of the year so it’s about adjusting to that as quickly as possible. I think both Test pitches will have a little bit in them for the seamers, which will suit both sides’ quality attacks.
Lastly, it’s been a real bonus to have Ross Taylor and Brendon McCullum join the group earlier than expected. They’ll now have plenty of time to recover and train before the English Lions match starting on Thursday in Leicester. The pair add experience and calmness, and because they’ve played here before and had individual success, the others gain confidence from having them with the squad. Just what we need as we get closer to that first Test at Lord’s.