Kiwis to cover their trump card Bond

Published: Saturday, May 1, 2004, 23:53 [IST]
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London:New Zealand will take a cautious approach towards Shane Bond's return to Test cricket.

The paceman has been on the sidelines for a year through injury and Black Caps coach John Bracewell said there was no intention to bring him back before he is ready.

"There's no rush to push buttons too hard on Shane," said Bracewell at Lord's, where his team is preparing for their first Test against England starting on May 20.

"He's part of a 12-month rehabilitation programme. If he plays in the first Test, it will be a huge bonus for us and probably for him as well. He's very aware of where he's at and we're not rushing him."

Bond's progress will be monitored over the course of three warm-up matches, starting with a three-day fixture against British Universities from Monday.

Nathan Astle will also be using the tour matches to gain much needed confidence after a protracted battle with knee problems.

"With Nathan it's a different thing because he hasn't made any actual technical changes, whereas Shane has actually made some changes to his action," Bracewell said.

"Nathan basically is just about getting confident with his knee and getting his batting skills up to the level that's required so it's time on the park, if he gets the runs, he's in with a shout."

New Zealand are coming off a strong performance against South Africa, in which they thrashed the Proteas in their One-day series and drew the Test series.

Also brimming with confidence will be England after their emphatic Test series victory over the West Indies in the Caribbean.

But Black Caps captain Stephen Fleming revealed on Friday that his side had only paid scant attention to England's performances this year, and particularly those of bowling hero Steve Harmison.

Asked if he had monitored Harmison's progress in the Caribbean, Fleming said: "No, I haven't, to be honest.

"I know what he can do, I've seen what he can do on the County scene.

"We didn't get a lot of footage from that series but I'm imagining what he's doing and it sounds good from England's point of view."

Like the English side, the Kiwis have been driven indoors by inclement weather, prompting Fleming to down-play anything suggesting his side had an advantage over their opponents, who have had much of their One-day series against the West Indies rained out.

Fleming also said he saw no comparison between England captain Michael Vaughan and South Africa skipper Graeme Smith, who found himself the subject of some verbal "gamesmanship" during the recent series with the Black Caps.

Of Smith, Fleming said: "He's a wonderful player and I think he's a good captain but he's emotional and that was one chink that we saw we might be able to exploit and he took the bait.

"It was nothing personal but it was just a pressure point that we wanted to press."

When asked if Vaughan was an emotional player, Fleming said bluntly: "No he's not.

"He's pretty relaxed. I played a couple of games with him at Yorkshire so watched him pretty closely there and there's not too much he gives away."

New Zealand will play three Tests against England before the triangular One-day series, also involving the West Indies, gets underway on June 24.

Fleming believes his side for this tour is stronger than the one that won the 1999 Test series in England 2-1.

In 44 Tests on English soil, the Kiwis have won just four compared to the hosts' 22, with 18 matches drawn.

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