May 012013

Two first class warmup matches are a luxury for the New Zealand cricket team these days, and coach Mike Hesson vows they will make the most of them ahead of the first test against England at Lord’s on May 16.

Lack of preparation for test cricket has been a hot topic ahead of recent tours to the West Indies, India and Sri Lanka. But with three and four-day matches against Derbyshire and the England Lions, respectively, before Lord’s, Hesson is licking his lips.

‘‘Two warmup matches are huge for us,’’ he told English media at New Zealand’s arrival press conference ahead of the two-test series.

‘‘We’ve been to India and Sri Lanka without playing any and obviously the conditions in those places are far more foreign to us than they are in England. 

‘‘The fact we’ve got a three-dayer and a four-dayer and it’s only been a month since we finished the last test (also against England), there will be no complaints from us in terms of being underdone.’’

The first match, against Derbyshire, starts on Saturday night (NZT) in Derby. Hesson said all 15 players in the squad would feature across the two matches.

Captain Brendon McCullum and fellow senior batsman Ross Taylor will miss the first match because of their involvement Indian Premier League, with Hesson saying they are likely to arrive on May 7 or 8. Both will play against the Lions at Leicester.

Hesson was not unhappy the two senior players were missing from the start of the tour, as all 15 players would get at least one warmup game anyway.

‘‘To be able to get our whole squad involved in those first two warmup games is critical for us,’’ Hesson said.

‘‘We want to be able to give everybody an oppportunity to make sure we’re ready to go.

‘‘Although (McCullum and Taylor) haven’t been playing a lot they’ve actually been training a lot, and our guys have either been indoors or training outdoors in between showers.’’

Both Hesson and Kane Williamson, the stand-in captain for the Derbyshire match, were quizzed by British media about the IPL and whether it was taking precedence over international cricket, given that McCullum and Taylor are missing the first tour match.

But Williamson dead-batted that suggestion, and said McCullum was still involved in the team’s buildup from afar.

‘‘Especially from a players’ perspective, test cricket is still held in the highest regard by all members (of our team),’’ he said. ‘‘If you look at the greatest players in the game, they’re the players with the best test records.’’

Hesson and Williamson stressed the importance of the warmup matches in terms of adapting to the conditions, with the expectation of more sideways movement in England and greater swing with the Duke ball than what they encountered in New Zealand, where the three-test series was drawn 0-0.

‘‘We know it will be very different conditions over here, it will take us a couple of weeks to adjust, but we’re very much looking forward to it,’’ said Hesson, who noted England was a tough place to tour given the home team’s record in recent years.

But he declared, referring to the impending Ashes series: ‘‘We certainly wouldn’t like to be the entree for the main course later in the season.’’

– © Fairfax NZ News

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