Kiwi pacemen brace for green grass of home
Experienced New Zealand opener Peter Fulton has seen a few Basin Reserve pitches in his time, but nothing quite like this.
He said it was difficult to tell the test strip from the rest of the block as the New Zealand and West Indies teams began their preparations for tomorrow's second test.
"I've never seen it looking that green. It'll be interesting to see if it does as much as what it looks like it'll do," Fulton said.
Curator Brett Sipthorpe has a reputation for producing the best surfaces in the country, and with another day's preparation and sun, it won't look as scary on match morning. But the idea is clearly to serve up a shade of emerald for the New Zealand pace attack as they look to go 1-0 up after the Dunedin draw.
University Oval presented with plenty of green grass but the jet-lagged West Indies bowled poorly on day one and it quickly flattened out to a lifeless surface, before rain foiled New Zealand's run chase.
New Zealand pitches have generally been a batsman's paradise in recent years, prompting Black Caps bowling coach Shane Bond to demand more seamer-friendly surfaces on the eve of this series. Fulton agreed batsmen had received a fair recent run at home and he had no gripes as he prepares to face the lively Tino Best.
"Especially the pace and bounce; I don't think anyone minds that. It's just how much bounce, and more importantly, how much sideways movement there is."
The past three Basin tests against Pakistan (2011), South Africa (2012) and England in March ended in draws. South Africa were on the verge of victory before a match-saving Kane Williamson century, while the England test was played on a lifeless end-of-season pitch and fizzled out with the help of rain.
The forecast is for fine weather for most of the test, aside from scattered showers on Friday and Saturday.
New Zealand's weary bowlers were given the day off training after their Dunedin exertions, 224 combined overs across back-to-back innings. But Trent Boult, who bowled a mammoth 53 himself and lifted the hosts to the verge of victory with an excellent final spell on day five, felt a spring in his legs after casting his eye across the Basin.
"It's going to be totally different than Dunedin. As a bowler I do enjoy coming here; a lot more pace and bounce and it does swing here," said Boult, whose only Basin test was the draw against England last March.
Williamson (fractured finger) batted in the nets and looks almost certain to replace Aaron Redmond at No 3. Captain Brendon McCullum will be keen to retain the same bowling lineup if they haven't taken too much harm from Dunedin; while a fresh Doug Bracewell could be considered as a replacement for either Neil Wagner or legspinner Ish Sodhi, depending on how the pitch looks on match morning.
West Indies coach Ottis Gibson, meanwhile, said captain and allrounder Darren Sammy (gluteal strain) was a likely starter despite limping through much of the Dunedin test and leaving them with two fit pacemen. "He's recovering nicely, so we should be all right for Wednesday."
Left-arm paceman Sheldon Cottrell will be considered to replace the disappointing Shannon Gabriel, while Gibson hinted Sunil Narine was a chance of joining fellow spinner Shane Shillingford. But that was before the pitch was unveiled yesterday.
Gibson felt his side had made huge ground on the hosts.
"They [New Zealand] played some really good cricket for no reward. They know they if they are going to beat us they will have to play even better. Whether they have that in them, we'll have to wait and see."
RETURN OF THE MAC
A familiar face was back in black training kit yesterday, six years since his final match for New Zealand.
Craig McMillan was a notable passenger on the New Zealand team mini van as they arrived at the Basin Reserve for training, wearing team issue kit.
It wasn't a recall for the 55-test batsman, though, but an invitation from captain Brendon McCullum to join the team as batting coach for their test buildup this week in the absence of Bob Carter, who is attending a family wedding.
McMillan worked with McCullum on his batting when the skipper returned home early from Bangladesh, battling a serious back injury. McMillan was named in August as batting coach for Canterbury Cricket.
It is understood he will continue his Sky Television commentary duties for the second test against West Indies, which starts on Wednesday.