Brendon McCullum – Source: Reuters
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With a rare shot at a Test series win over England staring him in the face, New Zealand skipper Brendon McCullum is having nothing of stonewalling for a respectable draw.
Pre-series predictions of New Zealand heading into today’s third Test at Eden Park with a chance of toppling the world’s second-best side would have been met with uproarious laughter, perhaps even an invitation to don a straightjacket.
So now the opportunity to beat England in a test series for the first time since 1999 presents itself, with injured pair Kevin Pietersen and Graeme Swann missing, McCullum insists 0-0 isn’t in his players’ minds.
“If you look at the way we’ve played in this series, we’re going into this game looking to try and win it. There’s an opportunity to create history and we’ll be looking at every situation and how best we can get ourselves in front at the end of the game,” McCullum said.
“Hopefully we get five clear days so that the best team – sorry the team that plays the best cricket over those five days – gets the result.”
McCullum was proactive in search of victory in Dunedin, and his wish for clear skies should come true.
After rain robbed each team of vital time in Dunedin and Wellington, the MetService predicts 23degC sunshine for the next four days in Auckland, with showers forecast on Tuesday.
The drop-in pitch, a different strip to the bouncy version used for England’s convincing wins in the Twenty20 and one-day internationals in February, offers some intrigue and places importance on the toss.
It didn’t look terrifying yesterday but still screams out ‘bowl first’ and should offer welcome bounce for both sets of pacemen.
Curator Mark Perham had the heavy road roller on it yesterday while the outfield was lush, divots from the Warriors’ NRL game last weekend were still evident.
McCullum’s philosophy hadn’t changed from Wellington and he would bowl first if England skipper Alastair Cook called incorrectly for a third straight Test.
“I think if there is anything it on the wicket, it will be on day one.”
That said, he saw it quickly becoming the batsman’s friend, especially with the short straight boundaries.
Cook, with a hopeful tone in his voice, saw shades of the third and deciding ODI here where Steven Finn, James Anderson and Stuart Broad took six wickets between them and New Zealand folded for 185.
“It’s quite similar to the one-day wicket and probably got a little bit more grass on it,” said Cook, who confirmed Jonny Bairstow would replace Pietersen who left New Zealand last night with a knee injury that will sideline him for six to eight weeks.
The tourists rose to the big occasion twice this tour. They smashed New Zealand in the T20 decider in Wellington then put the outcome of the third ODI beyond doubt inside 15 overs in Auckland.
There’s also the feeling New Zealand had their best chance to bust open the series in Dunedin after a remarkable first two days against sleepy foes.
England were in charge from ball one in Wellington and if they bowl first today it could be the most intense session of the series.
The Black Caps’ previous Test win at home against top-eight opposition was against Pakistan in Dunedin in November 2009.
Their most recent series win, excluding Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, was against West Indies in March 2006, also the last time Test cricket graced Eden Park when New Zealand snuck home by 27 runs.
McCullum said the recovered Doug Bracewell would be considered but it would be incredibly tough to drop any of his three pacemen, which suggests an unchanged side.
After the two-Test horrors of South Africa in January, McCullum felt the fact they were in series-winning territory this time suggested progress in their poorest format.
“By no means are we the finished product but we’re taking some small steps forward which is great and it would be fantastic if we put this result on it as well.”
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