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November 27, 2008
Brendon McCullum has swallowed his pride and volunteered for a demotion to No. 7 for the second Test in Adelaide to allow Peter Fulton to squeeze into the side. New Zealand were desperate to bolster their batting following two disappointing totals of 156 and 177 in their defeat at the Gabba and the allrounder Grant Elliott has lost his spot.
New Zealand are already 0-1 down in the two-Test series but the Adelaide match has extra ramifications besides the potential to level the series. Should New Zealand lose they will fall below West Indies, who they meet next month, on the ICC Test rankings and they would be in eighth position, ahead of only Bangladesh and Zimbabwe.
That would be a miserable way for John Bracewell to end his five-year stint as the team's coach; he steps down after this game to hand the reins to Andy Moles. "John has asked us to treat it as any other Test," the captain Daniel Vettori said. "He doesn't want it taking away from what's going on and how important this Test match is."
New Zealand realise how crucial it is to make the most of batting opportunities at Adelaide Oval, where first-innings totals of more than 500 have become the norm. Although they had been adamant they would not shuffle their batting order, they decided that McCullum at No. 5 was no longer the best fit and the cautious Fulton would be a better man to come in behind Ross Taylor.
"We wanted to give Peter a go, obviously he's an out-and-out batsman," Vettori said. "It was Brendon's idea in a lot of ways, for the balance of the side. Because he's got such huge ambition to do well and he wants to give himself so many opportunities it's hard for him but he also understands the situation."
Although Fulton's recall was expected it will still be a relief for the batsman, who has not played a Test since the home series against Bangladesh in January. He was named to play the Trent Bridge Test against England but was cut at the last minute when Gareth Hopkins took his place due to McCullum's back injury.
Fulton might not be the magic bullet but he will at least add stability to a batting order in which nobody but Taylor posted a score of more than 40 in Brisbane. Vettori said the batsmen were expected to lift in Adelaide, where they had at least been able to practice outdoors, unlike in the stormy lead-up to the Gabba Test.
"When you come to Adelaide it probably brings a bit more of a sense of calm about everything because you know how good the wicket is and the expectations to score runs," Vettori said. "We trained pretty hard, particularly yesterday, on surfaces which are almost exact to the wicket out here."
Vettori is also ready for a major lift in his output after he sent down only eight overs in the first innings at the Gabba before having more of a run with 19 overs in the second innings. He was pleased to see there were already some footmarks on the pitch, which he felt would help him against Australia's left-handers.
"It's almost a complete reversal [from Brisbane]," he said. "We know the ball's not going to seam around too much and my workload increases exponentially really. I was happy with the way I bowled in the second innings in Brisbane. I feel good, I bowled pretty well in Bangladesh. But this is always a big step up in terms of a Test on a flattish wicket against a very good batting line-up."
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