London: New Zealand legend Richard Hadlee has warned England that the Black Caps are ready to add to the hosts' woes in the forthcoming Test series. Although New Zealand have won just eight of 99 Tests against England, Hadlee expects Brendon McCullum's team to put up a strong showing in the first Test at Lord's this week.
The Kiwis have won four of their last five Test series to move up to third in the rankings, two places above England, and they earned plenty of admirers in their run to this year's World Cup final. In stark contrast, England are in turmoil after sacking coach Peter Moores earlier this month following a poor run of results across all formats.
The disappointing drawn Test series in the West Indies recently another sign of England's decline and the decision of new ECB director of cricket Andrew Strauss not to recall controversial batsman Kevin Pietersen last week has added to the sense that the hosts will be extremely vulnerable at Lord's. Hadlee, who took 431 wickets in 86 Tests for his country, told the Daily Telegraph: "I think England are there for the picking.
"If we play to our potential we can win. Self-belief is important because it has been a long time since we have won in England so history shows we are up against it, but we have all bases covered." Seamers Trent Boult and Tim Southee have played a key role in New Zealand's resurgence and Hadlee has predicted the pair will be eager to pile the pressure on England captain Alastair Cook.
The left-hander relieved some of the scrutiny on his batting in the Caribbean, scoring his first century in nearly two years, although there are still plenty of question marks over his captaincy. "There is no question he (Cook) will be the target of Southee and Boult putting incredible pressure on him," said Hadlee.
"When you compare Cook and McCullum it is apples and pears as captains. McCullum is so attacking and proactive whereas Cook is more conservative captain. "That is not a criticism. He is very thoughtful in the way he goes about his job as captain but clearly he is under pressure. "If that is a chink in the England armour then New Zealand will look to exploit it."