Brendon McCullum was satisfied with New Zealand's efforts on the fourth day at Basin Reserve, as the hosts set Pakistan 274 for victory in what promises to be an exciting finish to the two-Test series. New Zealand began the day at 9 for 0, and McCullum, Martin Guptill and Ross Taylor all chipped in with half-centuries, keeping the New Zealand total moving even as Pakistan made regular breakthroughs, before they were bowled out for 293 at stumps.
"It's set up for what could be a great day of Test cricket," McCullum said. "[A target of] 270 was what we were looking at, in a day anyway, so regardless of whether we were bowled out or not it's probably around the score we wanted.
"I guess the other option could have been if we had been able to continue at the top of the order and gone on to get 350 in a real hurry. Maybe if Martin, myself or Ross had been able to bat a bit longer, we might have been able to score a bit quicker, but in the end 280 runs in the day sets up tomorrow quite nicely."
The New Zealand bowlers will have to attack on the fifth day, as they attempt to take 10 wickets against an opposition who have the option of playing conservatively, since they are currently leading 1-0 in the series. The seamers are likely to abandon their line-and-length approach from the first innings and bowl more aggressively in their efforts to square the series after two disappointing tours to the subcontinent in recent months.
"Everyone in the changing room is incredibly excited about what tomorrow brings," McCullum said. "Turning up on the fifth day of a Test match not knowing whether you are going to win or lose, and have the opportunity to go on and win is pretty exciting. With where this team is at the moment, I think you'll see a real desperate show from us tomorrow."
New Zealand's ambitions of victory, on a pitch that has worn to offer substantial bounce and turn for the slow bowlers, will rest largely on the shoulders of Daniel Vettori. Pakistan offspinner Mohammad Hafeez, in particular, proved that there was plenty for the spinners, as he extracted considerable bite on the fourth evening to pick up the wickets of Jesse Ryder and James Franklin. "I think we saw tonight that the pitch did take some turn," McCullum said. "I know Dan is chomping at the bit to get the ball in his hand and we've got a couple of other bowlers who have performed pretty well in this series. They're all extremely excited about the opportunity and I know the fielders will be backing them up too."
McCullum also praised his captain for his efforts earlier in the game, when Vettori narrowly missed out on a rare double of five-wickets and a century in the same innings. "I thought he [Vettori] did a really good job in the first innings. He's never going to run through a team in the first innings; for him it's more about controlling the run-rate and allowing the seamers to operate from the other end. The fact that he picked up four wickets is testament to how good a bowler he is. Hopefully tomorrow we'll see Vettori in full cry and us being able to go on to get a Test win."
Pakistan were defensive in their approach today, often employing fielders in the deep instead of pushing for wickets to force a win, until a late burst of scintillating reverse-swing from Umar Gul set the team alight. Gul polished off the New Zealand innings in style, as he troubled all the batsman in his final spell and finished with his second four-wicket haul in the match.
McCullum, though, was unsure whether Pakistan would choose to push for their fourth consecutive victory at the Basin Reserve, or opt to secure the series through a more defensive approach. "You'd do well to predict the approach from the Pakistanis. We've seen so far in this series that their batting has the ability to be defensive and see off periods of attack from our bowlers, but it also has the ability to fall over if we do get it right. So we have to make sure that the latter is what we come up with. If we can get into their reasonably inexperienced No. 6, 7 and 8 with the ball still new, it gives us our best opportunity."
The visitors had also failed to maintain an acceptable over-rate throughout the day, extending their drinks-breaks well beyond five minutes and strolling languidly in-between overs to slow down play. McCullum though, claimed it had not been a major issue in the New Zealand camp. "I didn't really notice it. There wasn't much talk about that. I guess that's just a bit of gamesmanship on their part."
Pakistan coach Waqar Younis claimed his side were eyeing a 2-0 result on the final day. "The game is pretty even at the moment and we are excited about coming out tomorrow and going for the win."