Black Caps need desperation to win series

JEREMY CONEY
Last updated 05:00 23/02/2013
Joe Root
Photosport
MATURE INNINGS: Joe Root celebrates after guiding England to victory in the second ODI against New Zealand in Napier.

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OPINION: The Decider. In 3D. Coming soon, live and exclusive from Auckland. Leading roles for a Cook, a Buttler, a Taylor and (naturally) a Broad.

Box office appearances from Oscar contenders McCullum and Joe Root.

The first two instalments have whet our appetites.

Part One was a hit. An evenly paced production. New Zealand's bowlers kept the overseas stars in check. England Trotted along, threatened, but late innings wickets left them unable to complete the deal. The New Zealand reply was cautious. Williamson, with the youthful veneer of a head boy in shorts and a coming of age drama, shrewdly controlled the opening exchanges. Some tight overs from Anderson and Woakes and a barnstorming denouement hung in the zephyr-like wind.

Into the night a tall lone figure reappeared on the set, bandaged and limping. His comrade in arms was the boss, in blistering form. Eighteen balls later, together, they raised their arms in triumph and returned conquerors.

Part two of the trilogy tugged the heartstrings. A narrative tracing the contours of a man confronting his opponents and inner demons. It wasn't easy viewing. Sometimes important things aren't. It was drawn-out, laboured conflict.

Suddenly a new actor, a new entrance, a new momentum. Here were the successor and the dispossessed in tandem, the imagery absorbing.

The people's champion reached a century and a fleeting emotional summit. Yet all the razzle dazzle of the Taylor/McCullum alliance was rendered futile. The terrible ease of the English batting settled upon those watching.

Baby-faced assassin Joe Root clinically tugged the ball left then right, eased it through gaps and lofted it hither and yon.

So now to the eccentric setting in Auckland. What will the script writers prepare? It's a tale of difference. The substantial and the modest. The abundant and the hard-up. The high flying and the declining. But it's not that simple. New Zealand have recently confronted two top teams in this format. They emerged with improving credibility against South Africa. It continues now.

Setting a target can be difficult. It's easy to become confused and lose your way. Should one keep wickets in hand or go for runs? New Zealand prefer chasing. A known target constantly clarifies just how much acquisitive manipulation and how many big shots are necessary. Last Wednesday New Zealand were overcome by caution and despite the surges of McCullum, the target was insufficient in those conditions to test a robust English top order.

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Anderson and Finn are not easy. Anderson's swing interrogates last-second batting, and those who push towards the initial line early, struggle. Finn provides bounce at a decent pace. His shortened run means he no longer has a speed wobble at the crease. Importantly, both English opening bowlers bowled straight. Swann and Broad, however, have looked vulnerable. The intelligent approach is not to be too prescriptive. Wait to see which bowler isn't on song then be quick to realise it.

Brendan McCullum power can pop your eyes. Crowds get up, scratch themselves and push their hats back chuckling. A man half the size of Finn has heightened the first two games with his pyrotechnics.

A jaunty arrival personifies the confidence of a keen executioner in the French Revolution. Beyond a first ball assessment, the bat wields like an axe and its currency is speed, chaos and disorder. Then McCullum unsentimentally dismantles length and equanimity of bowlers. Even the ball cowers. His decision-making and execution has been A list quality. Why has he spent so much of his ODI career opening the batting when he can be such a devastating finisher?

It's 1-1. New Zealand can win this series. It's unlikely we'll be in this position in the tests. So we need desperation now, everything must be done so red carpet can be unrolled in front of the dressing room.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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