New Zealand's Test record since they last played England at home does not make pretty reading, but that does not mean the visitors should count on a facile victory. With the Ashes looming, Ian Bell believes every match must be treated with the intensity of that age-old encounter if their attempt to retain the urn is not to be compromised.
"We have to earn the right to win here and that means doing everything as if it was an Ashes series," said Bell on the eve of their four-day tour match here, their only warm-up before the Test series.
"With 10 Ashes Tests coming up in the next 12 months we are looking ahead. This tour is important and we want to win it and make it a clean sweep of series here [including the T20 and one-dayers]."
New Zealand have won just six of the 40 Tests they have played since England toured here in 2007-08 (and three of those victories were against Bangladesh or Zimbabwe), but it would be wrong to see them as simply a warm-up for the Australians.
"We're going to have to play well as there are some quality New Zealand players in the team," Bell added. "We played poorly the last time we were here and lost the first Test in Hamilton. We had to work really hard to win after that and we don't want to be in that position again."
Now 30, Bell, who was called up as a 19 year-old on the 2001-02 tour to New Zealand, has played 83 Tests, 16 of them against Australia, which makes him the squad's senior pro. When he was starting his career, he sought advice from the likes of -Marcus Trescothick and Michael Vaughan. Now he is dispensing it to young tyros such as Joe Root.
"I was in a similar situation to Joe when I began and although he's started his career better than me I've tried to help by setting an example in the dressing room and in the way
I practise," Bell said. "To have the opportunity to assist him by passing on information is exactly where you want to be as a senior player."
Bell has been through a lean patch in Test cricket of late. Until his unbeaten 116 in the second innings against India in Nagpur before Christmas, he had gone 25 innings without a hundred, though he feels he is now over the dip after adding a one-day hundred at Dharamsala.
"I also feel I've been hitting the ball well here in the one-day series," said Bell, who has to adjust from being one-day opener to England's No?5 in the Tests. "Making that shift feels pretty normal to me now," he said. "I always want to be pushing myself to bat higher up the order in Test cricket, but it feels pretty comfortable where I am, especially with the people I have to make partnerships with, like Kevin Pietersen and Matt Prior."