Former test captain Ken Rutherford has called on New Zealand's top order to start believing in themselves if they want to get an edge on England's new ball seam attack.
The Black Caps' top order was battered in the recent one-day series against England, managing stands of only 11, 12 and 2 in the three-match series.
Seamers Steven Finn and James Anderson were on fire at times for the English - taking 12 wickets between them. Hamish Rutherford and BJ Watling, who opened in the Napier and Auckland defeats, particularly struggled with the pace and movement the pair were able to give the white ball.
Things aren't likely to prove much different in the longest form of the game - unless the Black Caps top four batsman start showing "belief" in their technique.
"They need a bit more belief," Rutherford, who played 54 tests between 1985 and 1995, told Sunday News.
"I got the feeling watching Hamish play at Eden Park, and Williamson and Watling as well, that the battle was almost lost mentally.
"They seemed to be resigned to the fact that Anderson and Finn were bowling quite well and their techniques would be sorely tested.
"It's not about knocking them off their perch by scoring loads of boundaries - it's about knocking them off their perch by showing real technique and belief in that technique."
Rutherford said New Zealand's opening session against the English bowlers could well prove to be the most crucial of the entire test series.
Show some grit there, he reckons, and that could send a massive message to an England side that has had the Black Caps' number in the other two forms of the game this summer.
"If we can just blunt that first 20 or 25 overs and get through unscathed, I think it would set a terrific tone for the rest of the test series," Rutherford said.
"I think it would say to the English that we've done our homework, we've gone away and thought about you guys and are now operating in a correct, positive manner.
Rutherford has spoken to his son Hamish ahead of his test debut on his flat home deck in Dunedin next weekend. The Otago 23-year-old is set to open the Black Caps' innings with Cantabrian Peter Fulton.
He said he has encouraged him to play each ball on its merits - abandoning the style that earned him his call-up for the Twenty20s and one-day internationals recently.
"It's not been so much talking about his technique - it's been more about getting that mental state right," Rutherford senior said.
"He's got to think positively and react to the ball that is getting bowled to him, rather than a lot of our batsmen who, particularly in the Twenty20s and one-dayers, tend to premeditate were the ball will be. You can't do that in test cricket. You've got to react to what's in front of you, and hopefully our guys can achieve that.
"I really do think those first few overs will be huge. Jimmy Anderson's first spell, Finn's first spell and getting through [Stuart] Broad as well - that will be critical in showing that the Kiwis are there and in for the fight."
- Sunday News
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