Kiwi skipper McCullum ponders spin dilemma
May 15 2013 - 15:17:04
New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum admits he will wait until the last minute before deciding if spinner Bruce Martin or seamer Doug Bracewell will fill the final place in his bowling attack for the first Test against England.
McCullum's side open their two-match Test series against England at Lord's on Thursday and the skipper's only selection dilemma is whether to go with an all-seam attack to take advantage of the expected overcast conditions in north London.
Martin played in the three drawn Tests against England in New Zealand earlier this year, but he could be dropped before the toss on Thursday if McCullum decides a spinner will be of little use in weather more suited to pace bowlers.
That brings Bracewell back into the equation after a spell out of the team that started when he cut his foot while cleaning up after a get together at his house.
Bracewell had been hoping to nudge ahead of Neil Wagner in the pecking order, but the latter performed strongly in the tourists' warm-up fixtures.
"Wagner definitely plays," McCullum said at a pre-match press conference on Wednesday.
"It's either Martin or Bracewell for the last position, otherwise it's the same team from back home.
"It's just a balance issue of trying to work out whether to play the four seamers or use the same set-up as the three Tests back home.
"That's something we have to look at in the morning before making a call.
"Overhead conditions are something we have to be aware of and we have to take into account the forecast too. If the game does get shortened (by rain) you look at how that impacts on the spinner's ability to impose himself on the game.
"I don't think we'll lose much either way, it's just a slight tweak of the balance."
While New Zealand ponder their options, England are likely to include off-spinner Graeme Swann as he returns to action after missing the series in New Zealand with an elbow injury.
After giving England a tougher than expected challenge at home, McCullum is well aware his team are likely to face a sterner test this time.
"They will be more aware of us. They're playing in their backyard as well, so we know we're going to have to improve on the performance at home," he said.
"They will probably swing the ball a bit more than in New Zealand, where they also struggled a touch with the Kookaburra (ball).
"They will be a far more dangerous proposition. Their batters are very clinical at home, from what we've seen.
"We believe we have some guys favoured by these conditions but we'll have to be on our game. It's pretty mouth-watering."
Some pundits claimed England's lacklustre performances in New Zealand were caused by taking victory for granted.
But McCullum doesn't believe that and he added: "I don't think England were disrespectful.
"We started the series really well and were able to get into it with a dominant display, which allowed us to grow in confidence and ate away at theirs too.
"If you look at the rankings, we punched above our weight. But that's the standard we have to operate at."