February 4, 2002

Cairns and Bond back for Black Caps

Key allrounder Chris Cairns and pace revelation Shane Bond will return to bolster New Zealand for the opening game of the tri series finals against South Africa at the MCG on Wednesday.

The Kiwis went back to the drawing board today ahead of the best-of-three games series, seeking the answers to overcoming a team they've beaten only once in their last 16 one day encounters.

Cairns did not train as he rested the back problem which kept him out of Friday's loss to South Africa in Perth but he had little doubt he would play - and would likely bowl.

"I'm a 90 per cent chance of playing at this stage, just to cover off the 10 per cent tomorrow and have a bowl - I should be fine," said Cairns, who had an injection in Perth to help his back.

Having played earlier last week as a batsman only, Cairns said he would try to play as "the fifth or sixth bowler" in Wednesday's day-nighter at the MCG.

The Kiwis will also be lifted by the return of Bond, their main strike bowler, who skipped Friday's match with a groin strain.

"He (Bond) has been the find of the tour for us and the majority of our success can be attributed to him," Cairns said.

"What he's given us throughout this series is firepower and the ability to take wickets."

New Zealand had their tactics working perfectly against Australia throughout the round robin series, winning three of four matches and only losing the other to Michael Bevan's miraculous innings.

But South Africa is another matter and the key area the Black Caps want to address is stemming the Proteas' withering late innings onslaughts against them by the likes of Shaun Pollock and Jonty Rhodes.

Team manager Jeff Crowe said the team was still trying to develop a bowler, apart from Cairns, who could be relied upon to perform well in the final overs.

"It's not something you can just achieve, you have to put into plan and execution," former NZ captain Crowe said.

"You can't say we're overly experienced at bowling in the death - we don't have a natural person at this point.

"It's a matter of just working away and finding the accuracy you need."

New Zealand's emergence as a major power in both the Test and one-day arena has been a highlight of the summer and Crowe believed captain Stephen Fleming deserved much of the credit.

"I sense when we really started to change and up the ante was last year in New Zealand, in between the series against Sri Lanka and Pakistan," Crowe said.

"Stephen Fleming has been the catalyst for all this, he took on a new role and went from phase one of his captaincy career to stage two.

"He took on a stronger and more powerful position with his role - he really drives the ship, he's the person who really tells the team what we need to do."

South Africa start the finals a strong favourite, but Cairns said the Black Caps gave themselves a real chance.

"One out of 16 - that's (how often) we've beaten them, if I was South Africa I'd want to play us in the finals as well," Cairns said.

"Saying that, finals situations bring out the most amazing results - anything can happen."