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March 20, 2008
After ringing the changes for the second Test in Wellington and winning the game to square the series, England are a reinvigorated outfit and bubbling with confidence. With James Anderson (match figures of 7-130) and Stuart Broad both demonstrating the benefits of youth in Wellington, it is New Zealand who are on the back foot approaching the decider in Napier. However, unlike the Basin Reserve's fast-and-springy pitch, Napier's McLean Park is expected to be flat and lifeless and New Zealand will miss the relative experience of Kyle Mills, ruled out with a knee injury. Will his replacement, the Under-19 fast bowler Tim Southee, inspire New Zealand as much as Broad and Anderson roused England last week? Stephen Fleming, playing in his 111th and final Test, will dearly hope so.
Form guide - EnglandLast five matches: LDDLW
Player to watch: Kevin Pietersen's form dip has quickly become a troublesome trough. Not since his 101 against India last summer has he hit so much as a fifty. He continues to look in good form but judging by the exasperated grin which spread across his face after being run out in Wellington, he is all too aware of his plight. Napier's lifeless track and an inexperienced New Zealand attack might be the trigger he needs.
Form guide - New ZealandLast five matches: LWWWL
Player to watch: Stephen Fleming has, by his own admission and strictly statistically speaking, underperformed with the bat in a career that has spanned 14 years. Approaching his 111th and final Test, he still needs 113 runs to secure his long-sought goal of averaging 40 and, timing the ball as well as he ever has, don't discount one last hurrah.
Team newsMills has failed to recover from his injured knee, prompting a call-up for Southee, the 19-year-old swing bowler. Mills's absence might be a blessing in disguise; Southee was named Player of the Tournament in last month's Under-19 World Cup for his 17 wickets at 6.64 and John Bracewell, the New Zealand coach, has already highlighted his ability to swing. England, on the other hand, are expected to remained unchanged following their 126-run win in Wellington.
New Zealand Jamie How, Matthew Bell, Stephen Fleming, Mathew Sinclair, Ross Taylor, Grant Elliott, Brendon McCullum (wk), Daniel Vettori (capt), Jeetan Patel, Tim Southee, Chris Martin.
England (probable) Alastair Cook, Michael Vaughan (capt), Andrew Strauss, Kevin Pietersen, Ian Bell, Paul Collingwood, Tim Ambrose (wk), Stuart Broad, Ryan Sidebottom, Monty Panesar, James Anderson.
Umpires Daryl Harper and Rudi Koertzen
Pitch & conditionsThe last time these sides met in Napier was for that thrilling tied ODI when New Zealand couldn't overhaul England's 340, and the Test pitch is widely expected to play much the same. Phil Stoyanoff, the head curator, confirmed it will offer plenty of pace and bounce to allow batsmen to play their shots, but the margin of error for bowlers is likely to be miniscule. A pitch for both batting sides to fill their boots.
Weather: A few showers and light east to south-east winds (The New Zealand Metservice)
Stats & trivia
"I'm trying to be deadpan about my retirement. The emotions will creep in from the people around me, but I'm trying to be very statistically motivated in the goals that I've set. I'm not always that good at following them, but I've tried to really get into them. One of them was 7000 runs, another was ten hundreds. It's a focus to get away from the emotions of Test cricket."
Stephen Fleming prepares for one last Test
"He's a class bowler and the selectors have been watching him for some time. They believe he's ready for the job."
John Bracewell gives Tim Southee a ringing endorsement ahead of what will be his Test debut
"The hardest part of watching was when the team were gathering on the outfield for their huddle. I could not help wondering what was being said and it felt a little strange that I was not out there."
Matthew Hoggard can't hide his disappointment at his omission from the second Test
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.