New Zealand v England, 3rd Test, Auckland March 21, 2013

McCullum's chance for history


Brendon McCullum has called the deciding Test against England "an opportunity to create history" with his team having a chance to take a series against them at home for only the second time.

After a dominant draw in Dunedin and a backs-to-wall, rain-assisted escape in Wellington the series has come down to one match in Auckland. A few weeks ago that was an unexpected situation, but New Zealand have returned to the gusty, fighting and occasionally aggressive brand of cricket that has so often defined them particularly at home.

For McCullum, installed to the captaincy during a messy transition after the tour of Sri Lanka that could have caused irreparable damage, it would be his finest hour but he is trying to view this match no differently to the previous two.

"You still have to try and prepare your team in the same way regardless of how significant the occasion is," he said. "But if we manage to get the result we want after five hard days then you look back and say we've got some fruits for the labour. That's something that will give all the people who support the team, and are involved in it, that little bit of hope and satisfaction that we are heading in the right direction.

"I think we have taken some small steps and it would be fantastic if we can get this result. There's an opportunity to create history so we'll be turning our intentions to how we can best get ourselves in front."

For England, who have spent most of the last seven months touring Sri Lanka, India and New Zealand, the prospect of losing a series to a team ranked six places below them should be enough to ward off any thoughts of the journey home.

Of all the challenges England have faced recently, this Test series was one firmly put in the 'will win' column. So far it has not quite worked out that way. They were stymied by rain in Wellington, but could yet come back to rue their awful batting on the second morning in Dunedin. If they had managed to take an early grasp on the series it might have been too much for fragile New Zealand confidence.

Instead, the home side built belief during that first Test, not all of which was washed away by the problems they faced at the Basin Reserve. Even though England controlled the second Test they were made to work hard at times with bat and ball. There is nothing false about the score line entering the final Test.

"For the fans of New Zealand cricket, they want to see our Test game improving and we equally do. That's why this series so far has been really good for us but we know we will be judged on how we finish," McCullum said.

Having scaled the heights in India (a feat looking better by the day) it would be careless if England let this series slip from them. It would also impact their ranking points; a 1-0 series defeat will see them fall from 118 to 112 which, if India beat Australia 4-0, would put them level with India. If England lose and Australia win the final Test in Delhi, Michael Clarke's (or Shane Watson's) team will move ahead of them; more early sparring in an Ashes year.

In England's favour is the fact that they have produced impressive performances in the two deciding matches they have already had on this tour in the Twenty20s and ODIs. Notably, too, England's quick bowlers caused problems during the one-day match on this ground and the pitch is expected to be similar, perhaps with more grass as both captains remarked about the covering on the surface 24 hours before the match.

England's preparations, though, have been disturbed by the loss of Kevin Pietersen to his knee injury which means Jonny Bairstow will come into the side without having played since the Twenty20 series. He will form a Yorkshire combination in the middle order with Joe Root who will move up to No. 5.

"He's desperately keen to be involved," Cook said. "He only got one knock in the Tests in India. Coming back after playing really well against South Africa at Lord's, to then miss out because of the balance of the team was probably a tough call to make.

"He was obviously very disappointed, and now he's got the other end of the stick - where he gets a last-minute chance to play well. If you're in the shirt and you put in a really good performance it makes it great for the side and makes competition for places even better."

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Simon on March 22, 2013, 4:42 GMT

    Mc Cullum has been an excellent performer for NZ since being made test captain, to my dismay. It is good to see all international teams winning on their home turf. NZ haven't yet of course but if England don't win it is seriously deflating for them going into the Ashes on the decline. C'mon NZ.

  • Dummy4 on March 21, 2013, 19:54 GMT

    fine weather in Auckland today. Will we see a rain free test? I am going to get tickets for Monday but will wait on weather and to see how lively the pitch is. We may see both teams batting today!

  • Shanmugam on March 21, 2013, 19:10 GMT

    @gsingh7, thank you. Really. Now that you have predicted that NZ will win, I am more confident of England winning the test and the series.

    "For England, who have spent most of the last seven months touring Sri Lanka, India and New Zealand"

    We toured SL in the last 7 months?

  • gurinder on March 21, 2013, 17:50 GMT

    nz to win inside 3 days with maccullum scoring 200 plus. nz win series 1-0

  • Suraj on March 21, 2013, 11:31 GMT

    ENgland will win within 3 days..........

  • Dummy4 on March 21, 2013, 11:30 GMT

    nzl luk wayy wayy better team under mccullum than they were under ross taylor !! winning an odi series in sa against the home team and now giving eng a run for the money to win the series !! thts great !! the old kiwis are back !! right now test cricket luks soo bad wth only eng and sa luking very gud and ind and aus the just average 3 and 4 teams and sri lanka lacking gud pacers and pak lacking gud batsmen and kiwis and wi just contended wth no 7 and no 8 positions !! we need an competitive test cricket teams !!

  • Tom on March 21, 2013, 10:38 GMT

    "New Zealand have exceeded every one's expectations" - yep, I was expecting less rain.

  • Andrew on March 21, 2013, 9:26 GMT

    Correction to 7.52 - knicked to Parore.

  • Hamish on March 21, 2013, 8:21 GMT

    The irony if we moved above England would be too hilarious. I can only imagine FFL's reaction. But then again, it is a reflection of the credibility of the rankings if India are above Australia or England in the rankings. 8-0...

    New Zealand have exceeded every one's expectations. After being the dominant team in the first test and being dominated in the second test, things are more or less even. Confidence will have been derived from keeping England out and martin's and wagner's confidence would be sky high. Wagner is a workhorse, and is a bowler you'd like in any attack due to the workload he can cope, Martin is more effective than panesar on non assisting pitches, and looks much more threatening. Boult is at times unlucky and looks a good prospect, and southee is completely innocuous, bracewell will be a great replacement. Their batting has been the high point, and the confidence should be there for a genuine upset. NZ's home advantage will be reflected in this test i feel.

  • Andrew on March 21, 2013, 7:52 GMT

    Is it just me or does this match have a Perth 2001-esque feel about it?

    Unluckly not to win the 1st Test (2001: Ponting catching Cairns on the boundary at the 'Gabba 2013: a day's play in Dunedin lost) Saved by rain in the second Test (far more so in 2001 at Hobart than here in Wellington) And all of this creating a one-off chance of a series win in the third Test (or an unlucky draw 2001: Steve Waugh and Gillespie both knicked to BMac and weren't given on the last afternoon)

    I'm not sure our current batsmen have enough quality to match the four centurions of the first two days at Perth (the WACA pitch was a belter) but we have a decent chance of sneaking a win with Pietersen out and, especially, if the wicket moves a bit and we bowl first.

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