England take on 'injured' New Zealand in

Published: Friday, March 21, 2008, 11:23 [IST]
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Napier: An upbeat England go into the series-deciding final cricket Test against New Zealand here Saturday with an added bonus after New Zealand lost two frontline bowlers through injury.

Winning the second Test in Wellington on Monday to level the series had already put a spring in the England step and helped paper over batting short-comings.

But if the expected the flat McLean Park wicket was incentive enough for England's out-of-sorts top order, the news that New Zealand had lost allrounder Jacob Oram and opening bowler Kyle Mills sealed their confidence.

They have been replaced by two debutants -- 19-year-old swing bowler Tim Southee and South African-born allrounder Grant Elliot.

Oram, who pulled out Friday with a hip injury, had taken eight wickets at a miserly 14.87 in the first two Tests while Mills had 10 wickets at 22.20.

England, looking for their first overseas series win in three years have yet to put together the complete package on their New Zealand tour which they regard as the start of their build up to next years Ashes series.

In the first Test which New Zealand won by 189 runs, England's fielding was excellent but their batting and bowling were below par.

Come the second Test which England won by 126 runs the performances were reversed with the batting and bowling good enough to win despite a multitude of dropped catches.

But the sole century in the second Test was from wicketkeeper Tim Ambrose while the recognised batting establishment have not been able to kick on after getting a start.

Paul Collingwood, who scored two half centuries in Wellington, said England have tried to downplay the batting frailty.

"You can put too much pressure on yourself by saying I've got to kick on," he said.

"We obviously realise we want to make big runs but we're trying not to make it a massive issue. As long as we win games for England, that's the important thing."

"We don't go out there thinking we must score a hundred today because we haven't done that for so many games. It's about winning games for England and in certain conditions sometimes a 60 is good enough on that day and that will win you the game."

If any player is desperate to score a century it is New Zealand's elder statesman Stephen Fleming playing the final Test of his career.

He needs to score 113 over two innings in Napier to retire with an average of 40, the benchmark figure for a recognised batsman.

The 34-year-old, who led New Zealand a record 80 times before Daniel Vettori took over last year, said he wants to end his 111th and final Test with a "substantial" score contributing to a New Zealand win.

"It's not about me getting a badge of honour with 40 on my chest to wear for the rest of my life, I'm not that fazed.

"But if I can get it up over 40 it means I've scored another hundred and we've got a score that enables us to put pressure on England."

While Fleming strives to lift his average to 40, England's batting star Kevin Pietersen has seen his slip below 50 on this tour with his four Test innings so far totalling just 96 runs at 24.00.

In the New Zealand squad, in addition to the withdrawal of Oram and Mills there is one non-injury change with off-spinner Jeetan Patel brought back at the expense of seamer Mark Gillespie.

England were waiting Friday for the results of a precautionary scan on Collingwood's left calf before confirming their squad.

If Collingwood is cleared to play, England are expected to field an unchanged side.


New Zealand: Daniel Vettori (capt), Jamie How, Matthew Bell, Stephen Fleming, Ross Taylor, Mathew Sinclair, Brendon McCullum (wk), Grant Elliott, Tim Southee, Jeetan Patel and Chris Martin.

England (probable): Michael Vaughan (capt), Alastair Cook, Andrew Strauss, Kevin Pietersen, Ian Bell, Paul Collingwood, Tim Ambrose (wk), Ryan Sidebottom, Stuart Broad, Monty Panesar and James Anderson.


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