[1/2] Cricket - New Zealand v England - Second Test - Seddon Park, Hamilton, New Zealand - December 3, 2019 New Zealand's Kane Williamson celebrates his century REUTERS/Ross Setford/File Photo
Feb 14 (Reuters) - A diminished New Zealand will battle to bring high-flying England back to earth in a two-test series starting in Mount Maunganui on Thursday, having been the first casualties of Brendon McCullum's 'Bazball' last year.
The Black Caps were steamrolled 3-0 as England swept to nine wins in 10 tests with an attacking mindset under new captain Ben Stokes and head coach McCullum, the former New Zealand skipper.
The hosts have since started their own rebuild under Kane Williamson's successor Tim Southee and split their away series with Pakistan last month.
However, they face a stiff challenge to halt the English juggernaut without their best pace lineup.
Neither Kyle Jamieson nor Matt Henry will be steaming in during the pink ball series-opener at Bay Oval, the former quick ruled out of the series with a back problem and the latter on leave for the birth of his first child. read more
Former pace spearhead Trent Boult has been overlooked as a replacement because he opted out of his national contract last year.
With seam bowling all-rounder Colin de Grandhomme also lost to the lucrative global T20 circuit, selectors are left with only rookie quicks to lend support to fast bowling captain Southee and Neil Wagner.
Blair Tickner, and one of either Jacob Duffy or Scott Kuggeleijn, are expected to debut on Thursday.
It bodes poorly for a team whose descent from winning the inaugural World Test Championship in 2021 has been rapid and jarring.
While New Zealand have not lost a test series at home to England since 2008, Stokes's men have little respect for the record books.
Their last history-making effort came in Pakistan where they became the first team to complete a 3-0 whitewash of the South Asians.
If New Zealand have a sliver of hope it may lie in England's trouble with day-night tests.
England have lost their last five under the lights and neither James Anderson nor Ollie Robinson have much love for the pink Kookaburra ball.
Both teams' preparations have been disrupted by Cyclone Gabrielle which washed out training for two days this week, while wreaking havoc elsewhere in the North Island. read more
England appear far more settled, though, and refreshed after a golf break down south and a tour of some of McCullum's old haunts further north.
England have not looked back since McCullum and Stokes took charge but the series will be a reminder of where it all began for the Anderson-Stuart Broad pace axis.
Nearly 15 years ago, both were picked together for the first time in Wellington in the second test of the 2008 series and took 10 wickets between them to help England win.
They kept their spots for the third and final clash in Napier, which England won to seal the series 2-1.
More than 1,200 dismissals later, 40-year-old Anderson and 36-year-old Broad are ready to charge in again.
"If and when I get selected, I will give it everything, charge in, sign it off and go again," said Broad.
Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Editing by Peter Rutherford
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