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New Zealand look to up pressure on Windies

Published: Tuesday, March 21, 2006, 23:53 [IST]
 
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Wellington:New Zealand go into the third and final cricket Test against the West Indies saying they need to further improve on their dominating performance so far to help prepare them for an expected tough tour of South Africa next month.

The West Indies have put up minimal resistance in the first two Tests allowing New Zealand to win five consecutive Tests for the first time after a 3-0 clean sweep over Bangladesh late last year.

But while New Zealand see their record winning streak as cause for celebration, and have the chance to extend it when the third Test starts in Napier on Saturday, they know South Africa will provide a far more relevant yardstick to measure their form.

"We haven't got one eye on South Africa, we've got both eyes firmly on the next Test and if we can keep improving in each area then we'll go to the Republic in good shape," said captain Stephen Fleming.

"But if we slip back and don't play as well, then we're one Test behind where we want to be."

If it were not for the weather delays, the West Indies would have lost the second Test in three days such was New Zealand's dominance and the visitors lack of application in their batting.

World record holder Brian Lara has been unable to fire in New Zealand and his form slump seems to be spreading through the team.

New Zealand can take satisfaction from an improved batting performance in the second Test, after a mixed effort in the first encounter, led by Fleming with solid contributions from Peter Fulton and Nathan Astle.

However, rash shot-making remains an area of concern with Fleming, out for 97 in the second Test, and others losing their wickets needlessly.

And although Hamish Marshall and Jamie How successfully knocked off the 36-run target to win in Wellington, their experimental opening partnership still looks shaky.

The Napier Test starting on Saturday provides them with a last chance to impress before the selections put together the squad to travel to South Africa, where New Zealand have lost their past two tours.

"We need an improvement in the third Test (against the West Indies), and if we finish playing six Tests still improving, then it's going to be a good series in the Republic," Fleming said.

"We've found there's a brand of cricket being played by a couple of sides in the world which don't give you second chances, and at the moment we're in a bunch with the West Indies where you do get second chances," he said.

"If you want to climb the ladder to get in the top one or two, you have to eradicate those (mistakes) to be competitive and that's what we're after."

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