New Zealand lose but find some positives

New South Wales 361 and 4 for 162 (D Smith 42*, Martin 3-16) beat New Zealanders 266 and 256 (Vettori 73, Flynn 55, McCullum 54, Henriques 5-51) by six wickets

New Zealand slid to a six-wicket defeat but there were positive signs ahead of the first Test as Brendon McCullum was cleared of a broken foot and Jesse Ryder returned to the action following his mystery illness. Chris Martin also found some bowling form and picked up 3 for 16 as New South Wales reached their target of 162 with six wickets in hand.

The result was not ideal for New Zealand in their only warm-up match before the Test starts on Thursday but the bright spot was the good news on the fitness of McCullum and Ryder. McCullum had just posted an entertaining half-century when he was struck on the left foot by a Grant Lambert yorker shortly before lunch.

He was out soon after for 54 and went to hospital for x-rays, which revealed no fracture, although he did not keep wicket in the New South Wales chase. McCullum had already handed over the gloves to Aaron Redmond in the first innings due to back spasms, although that problem had eased by the time McCullum batted.

In the second innings the wicketkeeping duties went first to Ryder, who also bowled three overs late in the day. Ryder's improved health was another positive for New Zealand after he spent the past couple of days ill and quarantined from his team-mates.

He picked up a catch behind the stumps when Peter Forrest edged his attempted hook off Iain O'Brien for 26. O'Brien's strike was sandwiched between three breakthroughs from Martin, who was keen to bowl plenty of overs having missed the recent tour of Bangladesh due to injury. Martin trapped Phillip Hughes lbw for 8 and later added Usman Khawaja, who was bowled for a laborious 24, and Moises Henriques (18).

It left New South Wales at 4 for 79 and gave the visitors hope of a surprise win but an unbeaten 83-run stand between the unrelated Steven Smith and Daniel Smith got the Blues over the line. The highly-rated allrounder Steven Smith added an unbeaten 37 to his first-innings half-century and his three wickets, while his wicketkeeping namesake finished on 42 not out.

Despite the best efforts of Martin and tight bowling from Kyle Mills and Daniel Vettori, defending an advantage of 161 was always going to be a tough ask. New Zealand had been dismissed for 256 at the end of the first session as the teenage fast bowler Josh Hazlewood added two wickets to his two first-innings breakthroughs on debut.

Hazlewood bowled Vettori for 73 and then ended the final partnership when O'Brien (14) was trapped in front. In between Hazlewood's strikes, New Zealand found a spark through McCullum, who brought up his half-century with two sixes in an over from the legspin of Steven Smith.

Whether or not McCullum keeps wicket during the first Test against Australia, his batting form will be a key to New Zealand's chances at the Gabba. But with Redmond, Ryder and Ross Taylor all struggling to post decent scores, New Zealand still have some batting concerns to address before they meet Ricky Ponting's men.

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