New Zealand began this tour with the hope that the next time they came to England it would be for the marquee summer series and not this bastard-child, two-tests-in-May nonsense.

Unless things alter dramatically in Leeds, they'll be lucky to be invited back before the next arrival of Halley's Comet.

Without putting too fine a point on it, New Zealand's performances in England over the past four tours have oscillated between poor and embarrassing. The Black Caps' incomprehensible loss at Lord's this week was just the latest chapter in a tale of woe - the Motherland is New Zealand's Bleakhouse.

This is the fourth visit to England since 2004. In that period, the ledger stands at: Played 9, Won 0, Drawn 1, Lost 8. Some of the losses have been jaw-dropping in their manner.


This is Zimbabwe's record in England during the same timeframe: Played 0, Won 0, Drawn 0, Lost 0. If you were a Zimbabwean and tossed all the political implications aside, you'd be rightfully asking yourself why New Zealand have been afforded such privileged status.

The Lord's loss wasn't even the biggest meltdown. That dubious status belongs to the Daniel Vettori-led side of 2008 who took a 179-run lead into the second innings, were rolled for 114 and then watched England score the 294 needed for victory with six wickets to spare.

At Lord's in 2004, England also made ridiculously short work of chasing a challenging target, mowing down 282 for the loss of just three (and one of those was a run out, the newly appointed director of cricket Andrew Strauss who was sold down the river just 17 runs short of scoring twin tons on debut).

In fact, the 2004 tour was a beacon of futility, with the visitors carrying strong positions into day four in all three tests, before buckling badly - sound familiar.

So what is it about England that brings out the worst in modern New Zealand teams? It is not as if the conditions are as unfamiliar as, say, the subcontinent, yet New Zealand have given a far stronger account of themselves in Sri Lanka and the UAE recently than they have in Blighty.

Playing with Duke balls in English spring conditions is a challenge, but the Black Caps have a seam attack the envy of most of the world and they practice long and hard with the balls before arrival.

To these eyes, it is the arrival itself that has become the problem. The 2004 tour was weird for a number of reasons, but the three since have all had one thing in common: the 'build-up' has been destroyed by the Indian Premier League.

There is nothing good about having your best players, including the captain, arrive straight off the back of a T20 franchise competition and to take part in no warm-up games. For anybody within the New Zealand camp to state anything less is dissembling at its worst.

In this respect, the national body are in a bind and one not of their own making. Start playing hard-ball with the players and suddenly the life of a T20 nomad looks more attractive to some of the most comparatively underpaid players in world cricket. Start playing hard-ball with the IPL and suddenly worthy NZ players are being passed in at auction. Start playing hard-ball with England and... well, look at those results - hardly in a position of strength, are they?

Only by playing the midsummer series will New Zealand avoid clashes with the IPL. Only by proving they're worth it will they get the midsummer series.

There's a fair bit riding on the result at Headingley, then, you'd think.

Land of Hope and Gory Results
England won by 7 wickets, Lord'sEngland won by 9 wickets, Leeds
England won by 4 wickets, Nottingham
Match drawn, Lord's
England won by 6 wickets, Manchester
England won by an innings and 9 runs, Nottingham
England won by 170 runs, Lord's
England won by 247 runs, Leeds
England won by 124 runs, Lord's