McCullum no lock to open against England
MARK GEENTY IN PORT ELIZABETH
Captain Brendon McCullum is no certainty to open the batting in the home test series against England as New Zealand search for a way to cure their batting woes.
Speaking after New Zealand's innings and 193 run defeat to South Africa in the second test, McCullum was non-committal when asked if he'd continue at the top of the test order in March.
"We need to look at it. I'm not 100 per cent on it yet," he said.
"It's a matter of looking at what's the best team we can put out there and getting the right combinations.
"Everything is up for review and once the dust settles on this we will be able to look at it with some clarity and try to make a plan."
McCullum was originally going to bat No 4 in this series before designated opener Peter Fulton suffered a recurrence of his knee injury in the warmup game, which handed Dean Brownlie a reprieve, and the latter topped the New Zealand batting averages with 43.
Former skipper Ross Taylor is expected to return from a self-imposed exile, too, and it's assumed he'd stroll back into his regular No 4 spot against England.
If McCullum slips down to No 3 or No 5, that leaves the question of who would open. Martin Guptill, despite his second innings 48, is still struggling against quality pace bowling while BJ Watling showed excellent opener-like qualities in the series, and Fulton would be another contender if fit.
McCullum averaged 20.5 at a strike rate of 34 and defended his approach.
In his last three innings he was dismissed by spinner Robin Peterson after reining in his natural instincts and withstanding a pace barrage from Dale Steyn and company.
"I've never been challenged like that at the crease consistently from a group of bowlers," McCullum said.
"It was as hard as you get in international cricket.
"They just give you no scoring opportunities and my role at top of the order was very much about trying to take some sting out of the new ball.
"Three times I got through tough periods and three times I was dismissed by Petersen. That was obviously frustrating but there's no doubt whatsoever that approach was right.
"We saw the two times we took sting out of the new ball the middle order players were able to prosper.
No doubts that's what we're going have to do against England, confront new ball with some steel and resolve and application, which allows the middle order players to prosper later on."
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