New Zealand v England, 3rd Test, Auckland March 20, 2013

Deadlocked sides target final flourish


Match facts

Friday, March 22, Eden Park, Auckland
Start time 1030 (2130 GMT previous day)

Big Picture

There is a Test series up for grabs in New Zealand, but England's thoughts are never far away from the important summer that lies in wait. Their hosting of the Champions Trophy offers them a chance to break their duck in a 50-over ICC tournament and then there is the little matter of back-to-back Ashes series. There is no point pretending otherwise - it is on everybody's mind.

Three back-to-back Tests in New Zealand are bound to leave England a little queasy. Every time James Anderson frowned in his run up in the second Test in Wellington, awful visions appeared of him missing an entire summer with an as yet undiagnosed injury. But Anderson came through 37 grueling overs, largely into the wind, with nothing more than a few back and heel niggles and with the help of the rain that washed out the final day confirmed that he felt okay again. He is only five wickets short of 300 but the slightest concern about his fitness would tempt England to play safe and rest their most prized bowling asset; Graham Onions was one of only three players who had optional nets on Tuesday.

And what of Monty? He was outbowled by Bruce Martin at the Basin Reserve and before this series few people in England had even heard of Bruce Martin. As Graeme Swann's sidekick in India, Panesar shared in one of the finest spin-bowling feats in England's Test history. As a lone spinner in New Zealand, his ability to block up an end allowed England to rotate their fast bowlers (and, no mean feat, probably helped to keep them fit in the process).

Accusations that New Zealand have been intent solely on a nil-all draw are somewhat unfair. If the pitch in Dunedin was a drudge, Wellington provided a decent Test surface. New Zealand have been competitive, not remotely the pushovers that some imagined as they have battled back from the mess of the Ross Taylor ousting; they can take pride in that. Indeed, their professionalism has been so exemplary it invites the New Zealand public to consider whether the replacement of Taylor with Brendon McCullum was actually more logical than it has so far cared to admit.

Form guide

New Zealand DDLLW
England DDDWW

Players to watch ...

Brendon McCullum has led from the front for New Zealand throughout this tour. His counter-attacking half-century in Wellington (are his innings ever anything else?) was his fifth in consecutive innings. However, his form is too good for him not to convert into a hundred. If the surface at Eden Park does have more pace and bounce as suggested McCullum is one of the New Zealand batsmen best equipped to deal with it. Beating England after all that has happened - what an achievement that would be.

Jonny Bairstow has played one first-class innings in seven months and now England have confirmed he will be pitched into a deciding Test. No surprise, then, that while most of the squad had a day off on Wednesday he was working in the nets with Graham Gooch. It has been a difficult for months for Bairstow - form and family issues impacted his tours - but this is a chance, albeit an unexpected one, to play a key role for England.

Team news

Kevin Pietersen will not only miss the final Test in Auckland but the whole of the IPL because of a knee injury which has been ruled out of all cricket for up to eight weeks. Instead of the adulation which he laps up on every visit to India, he faces a lengthy rehabilitation with a view to regaining match fitness in time for the Champions Trophy and the Ashes series which follows. Bairstow will deputise. For New Zealand, a third Test in quick succession will tempt them to shuffle their pace attack with the possibility that Doug Bracewell may get an outing instead of Trent Boult.

New Zealand (probable): 1 Peter Fulton, 2 Hamish Rutherford, 3 Kane Williamson, 4 Ross Taylor, 5 Dean Brownlie, 6 Brendon McCullum, 7 BJ Watling, 8 Doug Bracewell, 9 Tim Southee, 10 Bruce Martin, 11 Neil Wagner

England (probable): 1 Alastair Cook (capt), 2 Nick Compton, 3 Jonathan Trott, 4 Ian Bell, 5 Jonny Bairstow, 6 Joe Root, 7 Matt Prior (wk), 8 Stuart Broad, 9 Steven Finn, 10 James Anderson, 11 Monty Panesar.

Pitch and conditions

Drop-in Test pitches are regarded with such suspicion - somewhere between an artificial surface and the real thing - that discussing their likely behaviour still seems a little unreal. A couple of days to help the seamers before the pitch flattens out was one analysis. As for the weather, temperatures at the end of the summer have slipped a tad, but a maximum of 23C and a good deal of sunshine is the forecast.

Stats and trivia

  • Eden Park has staged 47 matches since 1930 and many suspect this may be its last. Its straight boundaries fall well short of the 70m minimum distance from the centre of the pitch, but ICC regulations allow any ground approved for international cricket before 2007 cricket to be exempt. So that's alright then.

  • New Zealand have beaten England only once in 15 attempts at Eden Park (10 have been drawn). Daryl Tuffey was the star of their win in 2002 with nine wickets in the match and his 6 for 54 in the first innings was a Test-best analysis.

  • England have won deciders on this tour over both 50 and 20 overs.

  • England have never won a 50-over ICC trophy; if they tell you they have not even given the Champions Trophy, to be played in England in June, a second thought, greet it with suspicion.


"The confidence within the group is building nicely but there's also a realism that we will have to perform outstandingly well for five days. England stepped up in those previous two deciders and we went missing so this will be a good challenge to see if we've progressed as a team."
Brendon McCullum

"In an ideal world a pitch with more pace and bounce would make for a more exciting wicket. But whichever pitch we get in Auckland we'll try to find the best way to win the game."
Alastair Cook, England's captain, vows to keep going.

David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Nicholas on March 21, 2013, 21:34 GMT

    @5wombats: Oh come now, if you look at the bigger picture this could be one of the best things ever to happen to England. Compton has proved he has the talent to partner Cook at the top of the order; Broad (who didn't deserve to even come on tour) has got some mojo back; erratic KP is finally out of the frame and will allow somebody else a turn; the importance of good spinners has once again been shown. Most of these things wont be shown on the DVD series, but it could be a defining series for England.

  • Dummy4 on March 21, 2013, 21:32 GMT

    NZ should put up a good fight if they bowl first, but if they bat first it will be hard for them, because they are good side chasing, they look more comfortable, but saying that it will be intresting to see NZ and ENG play in this final test match, best thing for nz to do is to attack early because the ground is so small, england bowler will be a tough challenge if england bowl first, but....GO BLACK CAPS!!!

  • Mark on March 21, 2013, 21:23 GMT

    I know that some would throw their hands up in horror at the suggestion but I think NZ are missing the phantom. More so than Vettori. Bruce Martin has done a very able job with bat and ball but our pace bowlers seem to have struggled if the pitch is flatter. Maybe they miss having someone with experience. We have a lot of promising new bowlers but most times at least one of them seems to struggle. It's happened previously where we've ditched all our experienced players and then struggled. In my opinion it is something NZC have done very poorly since the 1980's. They seem to have had no clear plan as to how to transition older players out without losing their experience and bring in new ones. The last few decades are littered with players who have probably never been properly developed and mentored, who continue to exhibit the same flaws in ther game year after year and who have never risen above being average test players at best.

  • Martin on March 21, 2013, 20:15 GMT

    @Andrew Edgington: as a kiwi fan my answer is: simply not Prior. he has been in fine and dynamic form for the whole series so far and I see him as a real threat. the other two? not so much. Root has been unspectacularly average so far, and while Bairstow may have done well in T20, we havent seen enough to judge him at Tests. @LillianThompson While I like the general make up of your team, forget about Ryder at this stage; he has made it very clear that he is unavailable, And I'm not keen on Watling opening and batting; use him for 1 or the other but not both at this stage. As for Vettori, I now see him as a batting all rounder; perhaps he should open, and we reinstate Bruce Martin? Or; given the predicted bouncy nature of the wicket, and form Wagner might be a better pick.

  • Martin on March 21, 2013, 19:46 GMT

    @jb633 on (March 21, 2013, 13:52 GMT) Nice comms. Yeah - look I think that tour of India REALLY took it out of our boys. In the same way that winning in Australia in 2010/11 was a significant milestone - so too winning in India. Not many teams have achieved these energy sapping feats. It seems that this England side are well below par - possibly unable to raise their game, and this to me is verging on unacceptable. Play full throttle all day every day - or else don't bother. @jb633 - I see what you say about the pitches - but we've bowled on worse pitches and done better. Like to see a much better performance in this Test.

  • Mark on March 21, 2013, 19:36 GMT

    @Shan156 A lot of people predicted that Monty would be less successful here. It's a pity, but probably James Tredwell would have taken more wickets. The one thing that Monty has done to perfection is to bowl long, inexpensive spells to allow the quicks to rest. However, with Steve Finn also mis-firing, I would probably prefer the extra wickets of Tredwell, even if a little more expensive.

  • Shanmugam on March 21, 2013, 19:04 GMT

    Before the series started, 6 of Eng's top 7 averaged over 40. Compton averaged 35 and with 2 back to back centuries, has now got it over 47. However, we now have 2 batsmen who are averaging in the 30s. Hopefully, Bairstow and Root will come good in this game. Our bowling needs to get sharper and hopefully a wicket with pace and bounce will help them. Monty needs a few wickets and for that he would need more variations. His approach worked in India but he has been found wanting in this series and has been comfortably outbowled by Chris Martin. Go England.

  • Sriram on March 21, 2013, 18:12 GMT

    Looking forward to another Cook test century !!

  • Angus on March 21, 2013, 17:21 GMT

    @Lillian-Thompson Vettori's days in the test team should be over. His strike rate over his last two years is awful. It is high time we had an attacking spinner in tests, and Martin has started off very well in that regard, looking very impressive with both ball and bat in the 1st two tests. Dan's best avenue is as a defensive bowler in the shorter formats.

  • Mark on March 21, 2013, 16:50 GMT

    @chillisi Are they now? Better weather and 5 days of cricket with a result at the end would be good! No one wants a minefield that would produce a result in 3 days. As various people have said, both Tests would have most likely have produced a result but for the rain, so the pitches can't have been that bad for cricket.

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