Cricket: 'It's been a long time' - Blackcaps depart New Zealand after more than a year since last overseas match

For the first time in more than a year, the Blackcaps have departed New Zealand - travelling to England for their upcoming test tour.

Some of the Blackcaps' travelling squad departed Auckland Airport on Saturday night, travelling first to Singapore and then onto London before their two-test series against England and the World Test Championship final against India.

The first New Zealand contingent will arrive alongside the trio of captain Kane Williamson, Mitchell Santner and Kyle Jamieson, who are to fly to London after quarantining in the Maldives following the collapse of the Indian Premier League.

A second group will depart on Monday, while seamer Trent Boult is staying home to be with family, and will miss the start of the England series.

Batsman Will Young will also join up with the squad in London, currently playing with county side Durham.

Senior batsman and vice-captain Tom Latham though, who hasn't left New Zealand since that ODI tour of Australia last March, is one of many players coming to terms with the return of international travel.

New Zealand's borders closed in March 2020 and only recently opened again to Australia with the commencement of the trans-Tasman bubble.

"It's nice to finally check-in and get our boarding pass," says Latham.

"It's been a long time since we've been overseas - March last year when we came home from Australia. 

"It's been a long time between flights, but we're looking forward to getting on the plane and going over to London."

But the Blackcaps will be travelling in a COVID-19 world, which means that they'll be forced to undergo quarantine procedures once they arrive in the UK.

However, the Blackcaps can take heart from the fact it'll only be three days stuck in a hotel room, before being able to begin their test match preparations.

"It'll be interesting once we get over there. A few days of quarantine in our rooms by ourselves, and then training in small groups," Latham says.

"It is a unique tour, and things will be slightly different this time. But I think once we all get together as a group down in Southampton, the boys will be ready to go."

The Blackcaps aren't in the UK for a holiday though, with three huge test matches on the horizon.

New Zealand face hosts England looking for a first series win on their soil since 1999, before the inaugural World Test Championship final.

Latham assures the Blackcaps aren't using the England series as a warm-up and want to enter that Test Championship final with two test wins under their belts.

"Again, it's another unique situation. We play two test matches against England, and then a one-off test match against India - which is completely different to what we're used to in the past," he says.

"For us, it's about trying to focus on those first two games initially, and then obviously move our focus towards India.

"Obviously it's a great preparation leading into that final, but those test matches aren't [a] preparation for that final. It's important that we go in there, and look to build up a bit of momentum leading into that final.

"It's certainly an exciting couple of months ahead."

The Blackcaps' tour starts in Taunton with a warm-up match on May 25, before the first test against England on June 2 at Lord's, and the World Test Championship final on June 18.