Cricket: England not impressed with pitches

By David Leggat

If play is possible at Basin today, visitors can still win test, says bowling coach.

The frustrations of England's seamers were laid bare last night.

With all the indications New Zealand and England will battle out a decider at Eden Park this week, England's bowling coach David Saker made plain the tourists' feelings over the type of pitches served up for the first two tests.

Given their respective world rankings of No 8 and No 2, this was expected to be a relatively straightforward job for England.

But they were outplayed in the first test of the ANZ international series in Dunedin on a pitch which died over the last two days.

With weather cutting play back to just 35 overs at the Basin Reserve yesterday, and a grim forecast for the final day today, it's likely to all rest on Eden Park, and by extension the type of pitch produced.

A cup-final scenario, Victorian Saker called it, and agreed 0-0 going to Eden Park would be a fair reflection of the series so far.

But he's unimpressed with the quality of the pitches.

"If you watched the T20s and one-day internationals [which started the tour] they were played on very good, fast wickets and produced some good cricket both ways, with bat and ball.

"The two test wickets have been quite the opposite of that.

"I don't know whether that's something New Zealand Cricket would put out, or just the way the wickets are."

Saker pointed out New Zealand went through a stage of having pitches which did offer help to the seamers, "and New Zealand's bowling attack has got great ability to move the ball in the air and off the wicket".

Saker said it was frustrating for the spectators as well as the bowlers.

"Just for the spectacle of test cricket, it's not the greatest way.

"Anyone watching wants to see the ball bounce through and batsmen being able to play off the back foot more. It is frustrating for spectators - but they're test cricketers and have to learn to play on all surfaces."

Saker said the pitches demanded building pressure and being patient to force a batting error. He remained optimistic that if play was possible today, England's bowlers could do that and still win the test.

New Zealand will start at 162 for two, with Kane Williamson on 55 and Ross Taylor on 41, their stand worth 81.

They still trail England by 49 runs.

New Zealand opener Peter Fulton maintained the key today was to "turn up with the right attitude".

"If the weather's good, we've still got a lot of work to do."

Williamson and Taylor had shown a solid duty of care, Williamson completing his sixth test half century, with Taylor, if unconvincing early on, a strong support hand.

Williamson's career has been one of peaks and troughs. There have been three centuries, all considerable ones in terms of character and achievement, but too many misses.

His average is 30 and should be higher. Of his 40 innings, 23 have ended short of 20; 11 are single figures.

Williamson's talent isn't in question. At 22, he is shaping as a key figure in the national side for the foreseeable future so yesterday's performance, when things could have got sticky, was timely.

- NZ Herald

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