Cricket: Black Caps quietly confident of series win

By David Leggat

They know it won't be easy, but New Zealand feel they have a chance.

Talk to the New Zealand players and there's an undeniable sense that they feel they are within touching distance of what would be a notable test victory at Eden Park.

That is not to say they're getting ahead of themselves for the final contest of England's tour; just a belief that they're right in the contest, provided they tick all the relevant boxes.

Middle-order batsmen Ross Taylor and Dean Brownlie emphasised the point that New Zealand will need to be assertive and at the top of their game against the No 2-ranked test team starting tomorrow.

Outside their camp few gave them a chance of being all square going to the last match of the ANZ international series. The weather has helped that, but they are anticipating England gathering themselves for a final push to show there is a reason for the gulf in rankings - No 2 against No 8.

"You see they've got good players and you love playing against the best in the world," Brownlie said.

"If anything you stand up and want to do well. I don't think you go out feeling it's like that [two vs eight]."

Brownlie and Taylor were in Hobart 15 months ago when the New Zealanders, led by Taylor, achieved a remarkable seven-run win over Australia. Brownlie wasn't about to get ahead of himself by comparing what a win at Eden Park would mean set alongside Hobart.

But both admitted to a sense of excitement at the challenge ahead.

"It's a position we haven't been in for a while and we're playing some good cricket," Taylor said.

"We've still got five days of tough, competitive cricket, and if we play to our potential we're a chance."

The chance of getting through a day ahead of the test without the conversation turning to the Eden Park pitch was always slim.

A person with strong knowledge of the recent history of Eden Park strips yesterday opined that there could be two days' worth of conditions to have seamers licking their lips before becoming a good batting pitch.

Brownlie, raised in Perth, likes bounce, which brings into play horizontal bat shots and suits his game.

Taylor is happier with his ball striking than he was when England's tour began. His 2h 10min spent over an unbeaten 41 in New Zealand's second innings with Kane Williamson served him well and shut the door on England's ambitions at the Basin Reserve. "I'm probably more happy with my state of mind.

"I always enjoy batting with Kane, he's got a good level head on him and it's exciting to see him develop as a player."

Have England been a touch complacent? They were, after all, expected to dominate the series, certainly more so than in the shorter forms given the disparity in rankings.

"Each team goes through different phases," Taylor said. "A few of their test players went home [from India] and this is probably not the easiest place to come and play test cricket. They've got better as the series has gone on and I'm sure they'll play better at Eden Park."

However Taylor doubted New Zealand's tenacity has caught England off guard.

"It's a characteristic of most New Zealand teams. We want to fight and especially at home it's a lot easier to do that. With all the analysing that goes on I'd be very surprised if we've caught them on the hop."

New Zealand v England

At Eden Park
* Played 15
* NZ 1 win (March 2002, 78 runs)
* England 4 wins
* Draws 10.

- NZ Herald

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