New Zealand in England 2015 June 3, 2015

Hesson and McCullum forging New Zealand's greatest era

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'Can play hard cricket without playing nasty cricket'

With a 199-run second Test victory over England at Headingley, the current New Zealand side added evidence to a case which suggests this is the country's best Test era under the captaincy of Brendon McCullum and stewardship of Mike Hesson.

Their attacking tactics with bat, ball and field have been dubbed revolutionary and make for compelling viewing in the eyes of many beholders. However, a couple of facts suggest the perception extends beyond the anecdotal and into reality.

1. A run of seven undefeated series, starting with the Bangladesh series in October 2013 and extending to this drawn England series, is the most by any New Zealand side. They have also beaten the West Indies home and away, beaten India and Sri Lanka at home, and drawn with Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates.

The previous best era began with the 2-1 away victory over Australia in November 1985 and finished with a draw on the bomb-curtailed Sri Lanka tour of April 1987. Between those bookends they beat Australia and the West Indies at home and England away. When you consider that era included two undisputed greats of the New Zealand game in Richard Hadlee and Martin Crowe, it puts the feat into perspective.

Tuesday's victory was New Zealand's first away win against England in 16 years, second at Headingley, and ninth overall in 101 Tests between the countries but, perhaps most importantly, it was their first win in a Test starting during May. In seven previous examples - 1965, 2004, 2008 (twice), 2013 (twice), 2015 - they had lost six and drawn one.

2. The Headingley victory provided another tribute to McCullum's leadership. He insisted they could play the same way as they did at Lord's, despite seeing the test slip from their grasp on the fourth day.

With the win he edges ahead of Geoff Howarth as the most successful New Zealand captain on the basis of percentage wins. Howarth had 11 from 30 matches (36.67 per cent); McCullum has nine from 24 matches (37.50 per cent). As a further benchmark, Stephen Fleming earned 28 from 80 matches (35 per cent).

Home and away series against Australia this summer will provide the best gauge yet as to their place in history.

Hesson, who along with McCullum was awarded the New Zealand Order of Merit in the Queen's Birthday Honours List during the second Test, said their aggressive mindset was justified at Headingley.

"It is challenging if it doesn't work out because you can get exposed, but if you truly believe the way you play gives you the best chances of success then, regardless of the situation, you need to stick to your guns.

"We were under pressure a lot and took steps forward from 2 for 2 and 23 for 2 in each innings respectively. We could have gone into our shell but stuck with the way we wanted to play. Within a short space of time we got back the initiative.

"If you look at the players in the group, most instinctively play with flair. There's also balance with the likes of Kane Williamson, BJ Watling and Tom Latham.

"Seven undefeated test series in a row is something we're proud of, especially challenging good sides in their home conditions."

New Zealand now prepare for five one-day internationals and one Twenty20 against England.

World Cup incumbents Grant Elliott, Nathan McCullum and Mitchell McClenaghan rejoin the squad, while left-arm pace bowler Ben Wheeler and left-arm orthodox allrounder Mitchell Santner are expected to make their limited-overs debuts.

Andrew Alderson is cricket writer at New Zealand's Herald on Sunday

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