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England armed for Twenty20 assault

As New Zealand cricketers either fell over or dropped out, England engineered an unruffled build-up to their formative clashes with the Black Caps.

As expected the tourists were a class above Canterbury in two 50-over matches at the weekend though what has surprised captain Paul Collingwood was the attrition rate New Zealand have encountered before even donning their coloured clothing.

Shane Bond's unavailability has been compounded by Daniel Vettori's absence from the Twenty20 matches due to an ankle injury while soon after his captain was ruled out Scott Styris announced his retirement from test cricket.

It was a win-win situation for Collingwood after presiding over a trouble-free hit out against the State Shield strugglers, particularly Vettori missing the slogfests in Auckland tomorrow night and Christchurch on Thursday.

"That should be a positive for us.

"It's a massive blow for them in the Twenty20s. He's a great player the way he mixes his pace up and obviously he can score a few runs," said Collingwood, who has an injury-free squad of 16 to choose from.

The impact of Styris's decision might only be felt later on, but for now the English were switching to slog mode after completing 51-run and seven-wicket victories at QEII's Village Green.

"It's a good start to the tour. We wanted to come out there and win and now we want to do the same on Tuesday night.

"I think we've got the players here to do well at Twenty20 cricket and it's vital we do so for the one-dayers - you can do a lot of (psychological) damage."

England appear primed to achieve just that after a weekend spent eradicating the rust accumulated after their most recent one-day series in Sri Lanka in November.

Fortunately for Collingwood everyone played their part as the batting order - with the exception of pinch-hitting wicketkeeper Phil Mustard - all scoring a quick 40 or better.

Opener Alastair Cook, already a fixture in the test and ODI formats, was something of a revelation and may force his way into the Twenty20 side on the strength of his unbeaten 138 off 140 balls as England easily overhauled Canterbury 218 for nine yesterday.

The left hander is renowned as a technically correct strokemaker but unusually showed a willingness to hit aerially during an authoritative innings that included the first two sixes he has hit in an England shirt.

Cook stroked 20 boundaries in a perfectly timed innings, following on from his brisk 51 on Saturday.

Allrounder Luke Wright, who had been a contender to open with fellow dasher Phil Mustard, will likely have to be slotted in lower down after Saturday's unbeaten 42 off 15 balls was complemented by a three wicket burst yesterday.

Collingwood also took three for 15 off five in game two, as he increases his bowling load while nursing a shoulder niggle.

England's major selection issue is determining which allrounder is surplus to requirements with Wright, Ravi Bopara, Dimitri Mascarenhas and Owais Shah potentially contesting two spots.

There is little doubt James Anderson will lead the bowling attack after he recorded figures of five for 47 and two for 39.

"They've got a pretty steady attack. They've got a couple of newer sort of guys but James Anderson is obviously going to be a spearhead," said Peter Fulton, the only current Black Cap on Canterbury duty.

"He showed in these games he's going to be pretty dangerous at the top of the order."

Fulton was impressed after his close-up appraisal of the English after being limited to innings of 31 and seven.

"They've got a lot of firepower with the bat, they've got a strong top six, and their bowling is steady, they're all pretty experienced at county if not international level."

Fulton, who is currently designated to bat at first drop in the tests, admitted he was disappointed not to have made more of his pre-series fact-finding mission.

"I got a start on Saturday and didn't go on, and I got a leading edge.

"The wicket was a bit slow, it wasn't ideal but there were still a lot of runs scored. A couple of guys showed if they were patient and waited for the right ball they could score," he said noting the 80s compiled by teammates Johann Myburgh and Michael Papps.

"I'd have liked to have got some bigger scores in these two games but there's a lot of cricket to be played this summer."

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