New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum has defended the pitches used for the two drawn cricket tests against England and says both sides should be comfortable with the 0-0 scoreline heading into the decider in Auckland, starting on Friday.
The second test at the Basin Reserve was drawn after day five was washed out without a ball being bowled. The weather closed in overnight and rain continued throughout the morning.
Umpires Asad Rauf and Rod Tucker officially abandoned the test at 2pm in light drizzle, with no chance of play resuming.
McCullum said a deadlocked series was a fair reflection. Both tests were weather affected, with New Zealand in the driver's seat for long periods in Dunedin and England in charge in Wellington after they forced the hosts to follow-on 211 runs behind.
"Obviously we dictated the first test, England held on and showed some fighting qualities. They dictated this one and we held on and showed some fighting qualities," McCullum said.
"We head to the last test match and I guess both teams will be reasonably comfortable that it is nil-all at this point in time and I guess it's all to play for in Auckland now."
New Zealand's bowlers were "pretty average" on day one, McCullum said, after he won the toss. England racked up 465 then dismissed New Zealand for 254 in reply.
McCullum felt criticism of the docile pitches at University Oval and the Basin Reserve was unfair.
England's bowling coach David Saker said yesterday that flat pitches ruined test matches as a spectacle and were frustrating for fans.
"If we look at the first test match, we lost a whole day to rain. There would have been a certain result in that game and then if you look at this test match as well, we lost a day and a half to rain," McCullum said.
"It would have been interestingly poised and there probably would have been a result in this. It's not three or four-day test match wickets, they're five-day grinding wickets [on] which you have to work incredibly hard for your fruits.
"I don't see anything wrong with them. They've been pretty good and they've certainly allowed both teams to have periods of dominance throughout the test match series so far."
England will be cursing the arrival of rain after a long dry spell in Wellington.
They were in charge virtually from ball one, and after enforcing the follow-on on Saturday, would have been confident of pushing for victory to give them an unbeatable series advantage.
New Zealand were 162-2 in their follow on, still trailing England by 49, when play was abandoned on Sunday. Just 35 overs were possible in the day, either side of a four-hour rain delay.
Kane Williamson was unbeaten on 55 and Ross Taylor on 41 as they defied the England bowlers for 31 overs on a placid Basin Reserve pitch, adding an unbroken 81 for the third wicket in a confidence-boosting batting effort.
England captain Alastair Cook was philosophical about the rain-soaked draw, and said they only enforced the follow on because of impending rain.
"We thought 60 overs, 80 overs would be quite a lot to bowl but it was a chance to win the game, our only chance really. We asked a lot of the bowlers to do that, unfortunately we did not quite create enough opportunities," Cook said.
"Clearly the weather in both games have stopped both sides getting into good opportunities to win the game. New Zealand did that in the first game and we did it in the second game. So hopefully it will be fair for five days [in Auckland] and we can get a result."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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