Daniel Richardson

Daniel Richardson is a Wellington-based sports journalist for NZME. News Service.

Cricket: McCullum plans to bowl first

If New Zealand skipper Brendon McCullum wins the toss at the Basin Reserve tomorrow morning he will give his bowlers first use of the ball.

McCullum fronted his usual press conference on the eve of the second test against England today and offered a slightly surprising response when asked if he would bat first if he won the coin flip.

"I wouldn't imagine so. I don't think New Zealand pitches break up a great deal,'' he said.

"I think if there's any advantage it's normally on day one. I think that's probably a trend to New Zealand pitches at the moment so there's been some huge runs scored domestically even on wickets that are four, five or six matches old. I wouldn't expect this one to break up a great deal. But I guess if you cop a decent swinging day then you can knock off the top [order] reasonably quickly as well.''

Former English test captain W.G Grace, who played first-class cricket for 44 seasons, once famously observed: "When you win the toss - bat. If you are in doubt, think about it, then bat.

If you have very big doubts, consult a colleague - then bat.''

But to win test matches you generally need to take 20 wickets and McCullum believes that a good morning on day one for his seam trio of Trent Boult, Neil Wagner and Tim Southee could make valuable inroads.

"The thing about the Basin is you can go a whole session where you keep beating the bat or you don't pick up a wicket. But then very quickly you can pick up five or six in a session,'' McCullum said.

"So I guess with that you're trying to look to gain some ascendancy early in the test match and that's hence why we are looking at bowling first.''

After the run-fest in Dunedin much has been made of the Basin Reserve wicket in the lead-up to tomorrow's test but the pitch isn't expected to produce as much pace and bounce as it has in recent seasons due to a heavy diet of first-class cricket being played on the strip this season.

McCullum said there would be no changes to his side from the first test at the University Oval.

"Yeah, unchanged team so we are going to go in with the same XI. I think they obviously performed really well for us in the last game and we hope that they'll do the same job in this one.

"We've got the bowlers to be able to take 20 wickets and to be able to put the same pressure on their batting line-up as well and we've just got to make sure that we execute and if we do that we are going to give ourselves the best opportunity.''

Following a heavy workload in the second innings of the first test, New Zealand's seamers have been on light duties this week but McCullum said they were all fit and firing ahead of tomorrow's match.

If the Wellington wind gets up - as it so often does - left-arm spinner Bruce Martin is expected to carry a big workload in to the breeze, while the pacemen will be rotated in short spells early on.

- APNZ

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