Cricket: Near miss builds up coach's confidence

By David Leggat

Hesson feels NZ have turned corner ahead of England tour.

New Zealand coach Mike Hesson is confident his team are "trending in the right direction" ahead of their return tour to England next month.

Before the ANZ international test series, if offered a drawn test rubber with the world second-ranked team New Zealand would have taken it, given the grim forebodings of what lay ahead.

As it transpired the New Zealand dressing room at Eden Park on Tuesday night reflected the sharp disappointment of falling one wicket short of a terrific series victory.

"The guys gave it everything, we had 143 overs [to bowl at England], we had some chances and probably needed a bit of luck, but many factors contributed to a great test.

"The level of disappointment will be there for a long time, but there's also satisfaction in how we played," Hesson said.

It seems a long way from the dark days early in January when New Zealand were being battered from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth by the world's best team.

Hesson quipped that "you still wake up every now and then in a cold sweat" over that experience, but said the squad had changed how they wanted to play their cricket.

"This is a good start. The first day of the test series set the tone for that."

New Zealand bowled England out for 167 at Dunedin's University Oval and new opening pair, debutant Hamish Rutherford and recalled veteran Peter Fulton, then put on 158 for the first wicket.

"It gave the guys a heck of a lot of confidence and things evolved from there."

One change from the South African series is the alignment of the team, which New Zealand retained for all three tests.

In South Africa, New Zealand had five batsmen, wicketkeeper BJ Watling, an allrounder in either James Franklin or Colin Munro, and four specialist bowlers.

Against England there were six batsmen, Watling at No7 and four frontline bowlers, with Kane Williamson offering useful offspin.

Seamers Tim Southee, Neil Wagner and Trent Boult got through a pile of overs, testament to their stamina. Left-armer Wagner was the most successful bowler on either side.

New Zealand's consistency through the series was one of the most pleasing aspects for Hesson.

A stiff challenge awaits. England in England are sure to be a tougher proposition than the side which waxed and waned in quality through the New Zealand visit.

However Hesson is optimistic that his squad will be competitive.

"We are trying to bed in a style of cricket we want to play. We've done it for a few games in a row. It's a matter of not wanting to step backwards, and trying to grow on that in England," he said.

Squads of 15 will be named next week for the test and Champions Trophy/ODI legs of the England trip. Batsman Martin Guptill is progressing well from his thumb injury; lively left-armer Mitchell McClenaghan is back bowling after his side strain during the ODI series against England; and Dan Vettori is off to the Indian Premier League to continue his return from a lengthy Achilles injury layoff.

It is too early to rush to judgment about a renaissance in the New Zealand team. That takes more than 13 days of cricket - two days were complete washouts in the test series - but certainly it is right to be optimistic that a corner has been turned in outlook and confidence.

What's next
• New Zealand's squads for the test and Champions Trophy legs of next month's tour of England will be named on April 5.
• Three players returning from injury, Martin Guptill, Mitch McClenaghan and Dan Vettori, are all making encouraging progress and are in the selection frame.
• The first test starts at Lord's on May 16, the second at Leeds on May 24. They are followed by three ODIs, with the Champions Trophy starting on June 6. Two T20s at the end of June wrap up the tour.

- NZ Herald

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