Cricket: Test team deserve chance - McCullum

New Zealand celebrate their first series win in South Africa after the third ODI in Potchefstroom...
New Zealand celebrate their first series win in South Africa after the third ODI in Potchefstroom. (Photo by Lee Warren/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

Brendon McCullum is bold by nature but the New Zealand cricket captain believes the team need to stick with the majority of the side mauled by South Africa in the recent test series when they face up to England next month.

The side will return home buoyed by their 2-1 one-day series win over South Africa but the scars inflicted on everyone (players and fans) in their heavy defeats in the two-test series will take time to heal.

They won't have much time to dwell on it as England, the No 2 test side, are due to arrive in New Zealand tomorrow night.

England take on New Zealand in three T20 and three one-day internationals before three tests in the ANZ series. The Black Caps have proved they are competitive in limited-overs cricket, despite their lowly ranking, but will come under the microscope in the test series against a side who beat India 2-1 in the test series in the sub-continent.

Former captain Ross Taylor and strike bowler Tim Southee will come back into the side but McCullum doesn't think too many other changes should be made.

Jesse Ryder has decided he is not ready for a return despite a meeting with coach Mike Hesson scheduled for tomorrow.

"I think it's important for the test guys who had the opportunity to learn from these games [against South Africa] to be given the opportunity to implement some of the things they have learned," McCullum said.

"There are obviously some of our key players to come back into the fold but it would be nice to protect the core group of that team to show we have learned from the experiences we have had.

"We will have some of the one-day guys knocking on the door but I think the test guys will be determined to increase their performances as well."

Taylor, who scored four and 52 in his comeback match for Central Districts this week, will probably replace Colin Munro and Southee is likely to come in for Neil Wagner from the side beaten by an innings and 193 runs in the second test.

Spinner Jeetan Patel is also vulnerable and, with Daniel Vettori still injured, could be replaced by Bruce Martin, who toured South Africa but collected the unflattering figures of 3-230 in his last outing for Auckland. Leg-spinner Todd Astle, who toured Sri Lanka last year, is another option but seems to have fallen out of favour.

The only other change could see McCullum drop down the batting order to No 5 in place of Daniel Flynn, who could swap with McCullum to open alongside the out-of-sorts Martin Guptill. Flynn scored 166 opening for Northern Districts against Auckland on Friday and has either been told to open in Plunket Shield cricket or taken it upon himself to shift up the order.

McCullum has had a lean time opening recently - he had a disappointing tour of South Africa all-round with only one score over 50 in 10 innings against the Proteas - and hasn't scored a test century since his 225 against India in Hyderabad in November 2011. That tour signalled his shift to opening - he's had two series since at either No3 or No4 - and he's made noises about a move back down the order.

McCullum has scored 947 runs as an opener at an average of 35.07, which is slightly inferior to his overall average of 35.12, but that number drops to 27.77 without his double ton against India. He has also averaged only 25.67 in his last 12 test innings with two half centuries.

"I want to improve my numbers, my output as a batsman as well as the captaincy and make sure I am really contributing strongly as a leader but also a batsman in this team," McCullum said on the eve of the final one-dayer.

- Michael Brown

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