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March 18, 2013
Brendon McCullum has strongly resisted claims that New Zealand have gone into the series against England with a mindset of trying to avoid defeat rather than aiming for victory. Their previous Test series had been a torrid affair in South Africa, where the top order understandably failed to cope with the No. 1 bowling attack in the world, but he insisted there was no hangover from that contest.
The nature of the two Tests support McCullum's stance; they set the pace in Dunedin, scoring at nearly four-an-over in their innings as they tried to make up for lost time and never stopped trying to dismiss England for a second time over the final two days. Their approach to this Test in Wellington was dictated by a poor first day, which left them trying to make up ground and they fought back on the second, but once England reached 465 they had to set their stall out to save the match.
"If you've seen the way we've played in the last two Tests we've been reasonably proactive," McCullum said. "We go into every game trying to win, it's not about hanging on for a draw. We see it as a great opportunity to clinch a series win against England, which is something we'd all hold very fondly."
McCullum also defended the Test pitches and hopes the surface in Auckland is similar to those served up during the series so far. He is adamant that it has been the weather, rather than the nature of the 22 yards, which has led to two stalemates and set up a deciding match later in the week.
It has been hard work for the bowlers on both sides during the series, but there has been success for some to enjoy notably Neil Wagner in Dunedin and Stuart Broad in Wellington. McCullum made a pointed reference to David Saker's comments about the pitches not being ideal for Test cricket on Sunday, but is more than pleased with the conditions he has been given.
"I've read and heard a lot about our pitches being too flat. It seems to be bowling coaches who have an issue with them. It's always going to be the way," he said. "If you look at the first Test we lost a whole day to rain and there would have been a result in that game and in this Test as well we've lost a day and a half to rain and it would have been interestingly poised. There would probably have been a result, too.
"It's not three or four-day Tests, it's five-day grinding wickets were you have to work incredible hard for your fruits but I don't see anything wrong with our wickets and they have certainly allowed both teams periods of dominance. For me, I'd like a wicket similar to these last two [in Auckland]."
Alastair Cook maintained England's view they would like more bounce from the pitches. "In an ideal world, we would," he said. "It makes for slightly more exciting cricket certainly. Whichever wicket we get, we've got to try to find the best way of winning the game."
Even if there is more life on offer at Eden Park - which will use a drop-in surface and will host a Test just days after the latest rugby game at the ground - McCullum has seen enough of his batsmen that he is convinced they can adapt to the challenge.
"If it is a bit bouncier than we've seen in this one, and especially in Dunedin, we'll have to come up with a strategy to overcome it and I'm confident that the guys are treading in the right direction. We'll see how we respond," he said. "It's been a good series for us so far, we are learning a bit about ourselves and were we are at. We have made some improvements from previous series but we know the third Test is what we will be decided on."
He also backed his decision to bowl by saying, as Tim Southee did during the match, that the bowlers did not make the most of conditions. "Certainly no regrets in this game," he said. "If you do that you won't be able to get out of bed each morning. It was about the best way to win this Test, which was to get some favourable conditions on day one. Even though the Test didn't last five days we didn't see the wicket breaking up. I don't think it's too bad a strategy for playing Test cricket in New Zealand."
McCullum suggested that he favours an unchanged team for the final Test - his pace bowlers have had a decent break after England enforced the follow-on followed by the rain - although he will wait to see how Doug Bracewell comes through his domestic one-day outing on Wednesday, where he will test his injured foot, before making a clearer plan over how he will attack the final Test.
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Andrew McGlashan
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