Bracewell fears Flintoff return

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John Bracewell

John Bracewell is keen for England to delay Andrew Flintoff's return © Getty Images

New Zealand coach John Bracewell hopes England are patient with Andrew Flintoff so his side do not have to face him.

The Black Caps’ Test series preparations pick up pace against Kent at Canterbury without five of their first-choice XI, who are competing in the Indian Premier League.

Another Kiwi who might be here but for off-field antics is rising star Jesse Ryder.

However, it is a man who might be involved, all-rounder Flintoff, who has caught Bracewell’s attention.

“As a coach, I don’t want to face him,” said Bracewell, whose team lost 2-1 to England at home last month. “He is like Jesse Ryder - there are certain personalities that need to be in the game.

“He certainly makes a difference to any team because he bats and bowls.”

Flintoff has made no secret of his desire to feature in the first npower Test at Lord's, which begins on May 15, while Matthew Hoggard exerted pressure on the selectors with eight LV County Championship wickets for Yorkshire against Hampshire last week.

Andrew Flintoff

Flintoff has set his sights on playing in the first npower Test

But whatever the make-up of the England attack at Lord’s on May 15, Bracewell knows what to expect.

“I don’t think their strategy will be different from in New Zealand - they predominantly kept the ball up,” said Bracewell.

“Steve (Harmison) and Stuart (Broad) bowled a bit more aggressively in terms of trying to keep us on the back foot.

“The swing bowlers used the ball well so whatever combination they pick will ask questions.”

Early-season English conditions are not dissimilar to those New Zealand face in their own country, so they will not have quite so much adjustment as teams from elsewhere in the world face at this time of year.

“We are used to playing on wickets that do a bit; we produce similar sorts of bowlers in terms of swing bowlers and seam bowlers,” added Bracewell.

“It’s going to be about getting our skills up to scratch to be competitive. We’re working hard on that.”

Jamie How

Jamie How leads a depleted New Zealand against Kent

Jamie How captains the tourists for the first couple of first-class matches due to the absence of Daniel Vettori, Brendon McCullum and Jacob Oram.

How, 26, has only nine Tests’ experience, having made his debut bow in 2006, but fronts a team boasting men of considerably lesser standing.

Indeed, only How, Chris Martin and teenager Tim Southee among the baker’s dozen to be picked from for this three-day game against Kent starting on Monday could be considered certainties for the first npower Test.

“It’s a great opportunity,” How said of his chance to lead. “I’m the first to admit it’s a holding or part-time role, but even if it is a warm-up match it is still an honour to captain your country. I’m looking forward to the challenge.”

And there is plenty of reward on offer to those that perform in the opening first-class fixture.

“We don’t often get a lot of games leading into Tests so it will give us a chance to continue our work throughout our season and work towards the first Test,” How added.

“It’s always an opportunity to press for selection but our guys are realistic about those coming back - they are our senior players.”