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England enjoy role reversal with pressure now on Kiwis

Christopher Martin-Jenkins

13 February 1997

After a day of fishing and golfing according to their tastes, the players were due back in the nets at Lancaster Park this morning to prepare, I trust, with proper intensity for the third and last match of the short series starting here at 9.30 GMT tonight. The feeling of release which that single success has brought was sufficient for them to feel it reason- able to try to get the practice delayed until they had been able to watch their football counterparts taking on Italy on live satellite television, but their job now is to focus on nothing but their own cricket.

New Zealand, after all, unearthed a couple of bright bowling talents at Wellington, and what is expected to be Eng- land's first unchanged 11 for 33 Tests, going back to the match in Antigua in April 1994, will not be able to rest on what as yet are fairly skimpy laurels.

It was cool, showery and cloudy in Christchurch yester- day, causing the New Zealand team first to switch their practice to the Cricket Academy at Lincoln University, then to call up Heath Davis, the muscular and improved Wellington fast bowler, who was busy taking four for 80 against Central Dis- tricts in a Shell Trophy match. The convenor of selectors, Ross Dykes, said that the decision had been taken ``to give the team an extra attacking option''.

Unless the weather changes quickly there is likely to be some help for the seam bowlers on the first morning, al- though there is no reason to think that this will not eventually dry out into the kind of true, quickish pitch on which Eng- land's all-round cricket proved superior at the Basin Reserve. The square here has been full of runs all season and the idea that New Zealand might leave the pitch green in order to gamble everything on winning the toss and levelling the series - the approach they took five years ago after losing the first game at Christchurch - may be fanciful.

That policy backfired last time at Auckland, despite New Zealand winning the toss and bowling England out cheap- ly; and the confidence in their camp is too frail, one would have thought, for them to take a chance now on losing the toss and facing Andrew Caddick, Dominic Cork and Darren Gough on a hard and greenish surface. If all the pressure was on Eng- land before the second Test, the boot is now on the other foot.

Certainly New Zealand are asking much of their new No 3, Matthew Horne, the 26-year-old brother of the left- handed opener, Philip, who played four Tests and four one-day internationals as well as badminton for his country. Horne minor played a good innings of 64 against England at Wanganui but has otherwise made no impact in his two games against the touring team. He looks a natural stroke-player and might have been a good selection at five or six in the order, but it is, as Bill Lawry would say, a ``big ask'' to put him in at first wicket down in his first Test, especially after making little impact for Auckland until last season. He then finished the season with two hundreds, including one of 190, before adding three more in six innings for Otago this season.

It is not just the new cap, nor the new coach, Steve Rixon, who is feeling the weight of expectation normally heaped upon England, but the whole team. One of New Zealand's spon- sors, Dominion Breweries, have indicated that they might fol- low Tetley and stop supporting the national team if there are any more stories like the reports of late night drinking in Wellington on the second evening of the Test. Their chief executive, Brian Blake, said yesterday: ``News of off- the-field activities is really disappointing and it is extremely disappointing on the field as well.''

If the pitch is to have the pace expected, it will suit Geoff Allott, whose performance, alongside that of Daniel Vettori, provided the silver lining to the Wellington cloud; and Davis too. If so, it should also suit Gough and Caddick again. Gough, praise be, has rediscovered the zip which his bowling possessed in Australia two years ago but Caddick, who by his own admission is a stern self-critic, has the ability to do even better and a chance to make a more regular place for himself in the Test side if he can build on his six for 85 at Wellington. Christchurch was his home city until he pursued a cricket career in England, and he will be watched by his parents, brother and sister.

He is expecting an especially warm reception from Christchurch folk generally, which would certainly not be the case if he were an Australian-bred cricketer returning to play against the land of his birth.

Gough and Cork have Christchurch connections, too. Both played a winter season here in 1990-1991, ending up at the same club when Cork became envious that the young Yorkshireman had been allowed the use of a car when his own original club thought he could manage perfectly well with a bicycle. Cork is suddenly the poor relation again now. After his dramatic advent in 1995, he had a bad 1996, culminating, sadly, in domestic upheaval, and 1997 has started no better for him. He is bowling inconsistently and behaving at times like a prima don- na.

I suspect, however, that this is not the real Dominic Cork; the one who rose within a cricketing family through tradi- tional league cricket and was known for never giving up. Per- haps, like Gough, he also has to settle down, stick to the basics and keep his feet on the ground. His outswinger, delivered with a slightly lower arm than it was when he took seven for 43 in his first Test against the West Indies at Lord's, is too seldom hitting the right length to find the edge and there is something frenetic about his whole action at the mo- ment, but it could easily click again. There is true quality there and if David Lloyd, John Emburey and Ian Botham are worth their salt they will help Cork to re-discover it.

ENGLAND (from): *M A Atherton, N V Knight, -A J Stew- art, N Hussain, G P Thorpe, J P Crawley, R D B Croft, D G Cork, D Gough, A R Caddick, P C R Tufnell, C White.

NEW ZEALAND (from): B A Pocock, B A Young, M J Horne, S P Fleming, N J Astle, C L Cairns, * -L K Germon, D N Pa- tel, S B Doull, G I Allott, D L Vettori, H T Davis, C Z Harris.

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Date-stamped : 25 Feb1998 - 15:32