New Zealand v England, 2nd Test, Wellington, 2nd day March 14, 2008

McCullum backs New Zealand to compete

"If we can bowl well tomorrow and set about chasing 350 on the final two days, then we have every opportunity" © Getty Images

New Zealand may have produced a flawless performance in the first Test at Hamilton, but on the second day at Wellington the cracks in their confidence began to show. With James Anderson leading the way with 5 for 73, they were dismissed for 198 and conceded a hefty first-innings lead of 144. But their wicketkeeper, Brendon McCullum, remains confident that - with three days of the match remaining - there is still plenty time for a turnaround.

"It wasn't how we had that part of the day planned out," said McCullum. "But in saying that we have the opportunity to come back tomorrow and resurrect the mistakes we made today. To win this Test match we knew we'd have to bat well once and, whether it's the first or second turn, it doesn't matter. If we can bowl well tomorrow and set about chasing 350 on the final two days, then we have every opportunity."

To achieve that aim, however, New Zealand will need to better the efforts that England's bowlers put in, and McCullum conceded that it would be a tough act to follow. "Our batting wasn't as good as it should have been, but in saying that I thought they bowled very well," he said. "I think the previous day we went past the bat a lot, but we were never in play. We probably bowled a touch short and they bowled that little bit fuller which brought the nicks into play."

The pick of the bowlers was Anderson, who endured some rough treatment in the recent one-day series, but found his form during a state game for Auckland last week. "I think Jimmy is a fine bowler," said McCullum. "The game for Auckland helped, but he is a quality bowler and we knew the one-day series is different.

"In one-dayers you try and be aggressive and try and dominate his style of bowling, but in the Test version, where he has a wicket that is conducive to where he likes to land a ball, he was always going to be tough to play. I thought he was brilliant. We didn't play as we could, but in saying that I'll take nothing away from the way he bowled."

He did, however, admit he was slightly surprised to be facing him at all, after Matthew Hoggard was dropped on the eve of the match following his one-wicket display at Hamilton. "I was surprised Hoggard didn't play," said McCullum. "He has been a fantastic bowler for England for a long, long time and he's had probably just one below-par performance in a while. It was pleasing not to see him in the opposition, but when you can call Stuart Broad and Anderson then you're not too bad."

Anderson's only moment of discomfort came when McCullum and Daniel Vettori climbed into a counterattack midway through New Zealand's innings. He was taken for 15 in one over that was reminiscent of the one-dayers, but McCullum paid England an extra complement when asked about his tactics during that period, and admitted he was trying to play in the manner of his opposite number, Tim Ambrose.

I was surprised Hoggard didn't play. He has been a fantastic bowler for England for a long, long time and he's had probably just one below-par performance in a while.

"You have to be aggressive when you're in a situation like that," he said. "Playing on a wicket like that, when the bowler can land the ball in the right place for long enough, he'll eventually have your number. I thought that if I could come out and be aggressive and hopefully knock them off their length a little bit, then the good balls would be a lot fewer and further between. Obviously it was short and sweet." He made 25 from 21 balls before edging Broad to first slip.

At the halfway mark of the match, the single biggest difference between the sides is the 164-run partnership between Ambrose and Paul Collingwood. Though Ambrose added only five runs to his overnight 97, he did enough to bring up his maiden Test century, and McCullum said it was richly deserved.

We were pretty happy at 136 for 5, so to have that counterattack and the way they did it was outstanding," he said. "It really changed the momentum of the game. When we kept beating the bat a lot I thought there was an opportunity to deny him, but he deserved to score a hundred for the way he played. The intent he came out with, and the courage to play that way when things aren't that rosy on the scoreboard is a fantastic effort. I'm sure he'll cherish it for a long time."

All in all, New Zealand are up against it in this Test, but McCullum said it was not for want of effort on their part. "We're playing a very good Test team," he said. "The opposition are allowed to play well. It would have been crazy to turn up here and expect to turn out a below-par effort, and still carry out a victory. There is certainly no complacency in our camp.

"We talked long and hard about the need to dominate form the word go and, to England's credit, they have done that to us. But the game has still got a long distance to travel and it's about us maintaining the belief that we can get a result out of the game. If we didn't genuinely believe we were capable of winning this game, we may as well not turn up tomorrow."

Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo