Alistair Cook
Alistair Cook will be crucial for England at the top of the order.Reuters

Despite IPL 2015 in its final phase, two Test playing nations, England and New Zealand, will have their focus on the longer format of the game as they start off their two Test series campaign, with the first Test match starting on Thursday at Lord's.

England may not have been impressive of late, but they are a dangerous side at home. Some new faces are expected in the series, as Adam Lyth could open the innings alongside skipper Alistair Cook.

Cook has opened the innings with a number of batsmen in the recent past and England are struggling to find a suitable opening pair. But they have a talented middle order, with the likes of Gary Ballance, Ian Bell, Joe Root and Moeen Ali, but not all of them have been consistent, which has been a worrying factor.

Mark Wood could be the new face in the pace department for England.

"In their own conditions, they will be a tough proposition, and we are by no means thinking we have got them," Sky Sports quoted Brendon McCullum as saying. "We know we'll have to play extremely good cricket."

New Zealand are a good batting side, with players such as Martin Guptill, Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor and skipper Brendon McCullum forming the core of the batting line up.

The Black Caps under the leadership of McCullum might take an aggressive approach.

"We earn the right to get ourselves into a position to be instinctive and aggressive. It's all well and good trying and ending up 50 for eight; you have to earn the right then you can be entertaining from there," the Kiwi skipper said.

The Kiwi batsmen need to be cautious, for James Anderson is known for taking wickets at home, where he can make the new red cherry talk. Anderson and Stuart Broad can prove to be major obstacles for the Black Caps batsmen with their swing.

But if there is swing in the offing, the Kiwis also possess a dangerous bowling unit - Tim Southee with his swing and Tent Boult with his electrifying pace can run through the England line up. Hence, Cook is going to be crucial at the top of the order for England.

Among many other things, it will be interesting to witness Brendon McCullum's batting approach, as he has been hugely successful in attacking bowlers right from th beginning. Will he continue to do so or respect the bowlers? Anything is possible when McCullum is at the crease.

Expected Line up

England : Alastair Cook (capt), Adam Lyth, Gary Ballance, Ian Bell, Joe Root, Moeen Ali, Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler (wk), Mark Wood, Stuart Broad and James Anderson.

New Zealand : Tom Latham, Martin Guptill, Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor, Brendon McCullum (capt), Corey Anderson, BJ Watling (wk), Mark Craig, Matt Henry, Tim Southee and Trent Boult.

Where to Watch Live

The first Test match at Lords is scheduled for 10am local time (3:30 pm IST, 6am ET and 10 pm New Zealand Time) with live TV coverage in India on Star Sports 2 and Star Sports 2 HD.

Viewers in the UK can watch the action live on Sky Sports 2.

Also read