Black Caps are accustomed to bouncing back

Last updated 05:02 24/05/2013
Brendon McCullum
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READY FOR ACTION: Daniel Vettori (left) and Brendon McCullum at training ahead of New Zealand's second test against England at Headingley in Leeds.

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If there was anything to cling to from the cricketing rubble of Lord's, it's that New Zealand are no strangers to this sticky situation.

Their past five test series overseas have ended in heavy defeat in game one. And with their lowly world ranking ensuring they're granted only two-test series these days, it puts game two in the nothing-to-lose bracket.

That can work, or backfire spectacularly. They improved dramatically in Hobart and Colombo, the latter in November one of their better test victories after a towelling in Galle. 

Confidence will remain, even if their swagger is slightly less pronounced as New Zealand eye a resurgent England in the second and final test starting at Headingley tonight.

A few stars need to align first, not least a drastically improved New Zealand batting performance against the full, swinging ball, and the hope that lighting doesn't strike twice and Stuart Broad returns to his indifferent former self, not the unplayable one.

Headingley was typically grey and chilly, with the sun doing its best to peek through. 

The pitch looked flat and batter-friendly but with the dark clouds shrouding the ground there's always a suggestion the ball will swing around corners. 

That's great for New Zealand's fit and firing pace attack but a touch alarming for the visiting batsmen who were shot out for 68 in less than two hours at Lord's.

Vice-captain Kane Williamson said the mantra of play late, play straight and don't play the initial line was pushed hard this week. But it's not always a quick fix.

"If you haven't seen it before it can be difficult. Our outfit is reasonably inexperienced in these conditions, and it showed. That hour of cricket, it really showed that we haven't seen it before," Williamson said.

"Even in the first innings there wasn't a huge amount of substance. It'll be a great learning curve for the boys and ultimately we need those lessons because it was superb bowling in those conditions which can happen over here."

Opener Hamish Rutherford, in particular, stayed late for extra homework yesterday. He remained in the nets having balls thrown or lobbed at him and the left-hander was still going when his team-mates had departed.

While the microscope might be on him and Peter Fulton at the top, and the returning Martin Guptill in the middle, the senior pros need to lead the way.

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The spotlight will shine even brighter on captain Brendon McCullum. With BJ Watling ruled out and Tom Latham not deemed ready, McCullum gets the wicketkeeping gloves. 

It's a logical move but probably an extra responsibility McCullum doesn't need, especially when ODI gloveman Luke Ronchi could have been summoned ahead of time as Daniel Vettori was.

McCullum's captaincy has received a few bouquets this tour, not least from former England skipper Michael Atherton. But his biggest contribution is via his bat, as he showed so devastatingly in New Zealand when his runs gave his bowlers something to aim at. That was one of the big disappointments from Lord's as he perished cheaply.

But with happier memories of the first three competitive days at Lord's still fresh, the memories of Colombo will be summoned.

"You do have that feeling of nothing to lose. We've got to come out fighting and go balls to the wall and make the most of it," fast bowler Neil Wagner said.

The arrival of Vettori has boosted morale, even if his inclusion for his first test in 10 months was yet to be confirmed. Everything at training 48 hours out suggested New Zealand's second-highest test wicket-taker would return. Vettori isn't the test force he once was, but he commands huge respect.

England will back themselves to make it 2-0, with Broad and James Anderson having exposed the tourists' batting underbelly and young prodigy Joe Root playing in front of an adoring home crowd. 

New Zealand will keep pace with England again, it's just a matter of harsh lessons being heeded and digging in for the long haul; four innings rather than three.

- Fairfax Media


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