Black Caps' batting must improve in tests

MARK GEENTY
Last updated 05:00 25/02/2013
Ross Taylor, Black Caps
PHOTOSPORT

GONE: Ross Taylor heads back to the dressing room after controversially been given out.

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Much as we thought, the white ball flying past New Zealand batsmen's noses forms the most indelible image of the one-day series, not Brendon McCullum's blazing bat.

McCullum was excellent for New Zealand in their 2-1 series defeat in his revived middle order role, but if he continues to be a lone ranger with the willow then three-day tests against England might become a reality.

Lanky Steven Finn and James Anderson stamped their mark on New Zealand's batsmen in Napier and Auckland. The series finale before 17,530 at Eden Park on Saturday was decided inside 20 overs, and despite McCullum's 79 off 68 balls, the hosts folded for 185.

As the white kookaburra turns red for Dunedin and the first test in nine days' time, it raises the question how New Zealand's top order will cope with the pace, bounce and swing.

Hamish Rutherford will be back for more after scoring 11 and two; Peter Fulton will have his first look at the tourists, while Kane Williamson at least has a polished 74 in Hamilton under his belt.

McCullum blazed 222 series runs at a strike rate of 135 and will continue in the middle order, but if he's walking to the crease inside the first 10 overs then it defeats the purpose of him dropping to No 5.

Coach Mike Hesson described the Auckland defeat as "a huge blow". It snowballed New Zealand's problems against the new ball on bouncy wickets. In Napier and Auckland, Finn took a combined 4-60 and Anderson 6-69.

"Finn's opening spell exposed a number of different areas. Anderson is pretty decent as well and they bowl different lengths. They're challenging and we have to find a way of getting past that," Hesson said.

"We were able to defend against Finn and Anderson, it's just when we were trying to score and the ball keeps hitting the splice and asking us to force balls that aren't really there to force. They're different questions that will be asked in the test, what balls to play and what to leave, and where we can score."

England celebrated their first ODI series win in New Zealand in 21 years as they cantered to their target five wickets down with 12.3 overs to spare.

All their test batsmen, who will be joined by Kevin Pietersen, were in the runs with Alastair Cook scoring four, 78 and 46, Ian Bell 64, 44 and 24, and Jonathan Trott 68, 65 and 38.

New Zealand badly missed the injured Mitchell McClenaghan who broke down with a season-ending side strain in Hamilton. With the new ODI rules, aggressive wicket-takers are essential and only Tim Southee in his second spell in Auckland fitted that bill.

Cook said his pace trio of Finn, Anderson and Stuart Broad were hungry for more.

"It's quite easy when they don't bowl many bad balls. There's not very much a batter can do. They're taking a big punt to take a risk to try and score some runs. If we can bowl like that we're going to be a very hard side to get away."

McCullum conceded New Zealand were outplayed but was irked by Ross Taylor's decision review system controversy.

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On 28 Taylor was given out caught behind. Despite hot spot replays raising doubt whether there was an edge, Australian third umpire Rod Tucker saw insufficient evidence to overturn Chris Gaffaney's decision. McCullum later sought clarification from the umpires when he felt no edge showed on hot spot.

"I would have thought that was conclusive enough evidence. If you nick the ball it shows up on hot spot and if you don't nick it, it doesn't.

"It [DRS] has its good days and has its bad days. Provided it's used properly and there's some consistency then it's a really good tool. There's still some issues that need to be resolved and [Taylor's dismissal] was probably one of those cases," McCullum said.

- The Dominion Post

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