New Zealand’s cricketers are drawing inspiration from images of Richie McCaw leading the All Blacks to Rugby World Cup glory as they head into their first home day-night Test against England on Thursday.
Despite some injury concerns, New Zealand short-ball specialist Neil Wagner was focused on performing at the Eden Park fortress where the All Blacks are unbeaten in 40 rugby Tests dating back to 1994.
England quick bowler Chris Broad, meanwhile, believed the first day-night cricket Test on New Zealand soil could be decided in “one mad hour” — less time than it takes for a rugby match.
England have selection issues as they ponder the workload Ben Stokes can handle with a troublesome back, while New Zealand are sweating on injured senior batsman Ross Taylor and have former Test opener Martin Guptill on stand-by as a middle order option.
The history of day-night Tests, using a pink ball, favours the home side who have won seven of the eight matches played so far. Further troubling England is their recent Test form, having lost the Ashes 4-0 to Australia in December and January.
Eden Park’s short boundaries should favour batsmen, but that doesn’t worry Wagner who had match figures of eight for 126 when New Zealand beat India at the ground in 2014 and took three wickets in a tense drawn Test against England the previous year.
“I love playing at Eden Park,” he said Tuesday. “A lot of guys find it funny, being a rugby field and with quite short dimensions.
– ‘You get goosebumps’ –
“But just the history of it, knowing Richie McCaw and those guys ran out there and won a (rugby) World Cup. It’s a pretty special place and when you walk out there you get goosebumps.”
Wagner sees no problems with the pink ball, saying the same rules apply as when using a white or red ball. “You’ve got to make sure you put it in the right areas,” he said.
But Broad, needing one more wicket to join teammate James Anderson as the only England players with 400 Test dismissals, believes the pink ball has a life of its own in New Zealand.
After 75 overs during an acclimatisation hit out in Hamilton last weekend the pink ball “still had the writing on, which is unheard of,” Broad said.
“It consistently seems to do more and I can’t put my finger on it at all … I think it definitely does more in that twilight period over this part of the world than England.
“The (Eden Park) drop-in pitch generally has been really good but with these pink-ball games you only need a one mad hour and you can break the Test match open.”
Broad is expected to drop down to first change bowler for England, leaving Anderson and Chris Woakes to take the new ball, with a question mark over the remainder of the England bowling line-up.
Stokes suffered back stiffness after the one-day series earlier this month and if there is any doubt he can fill a full bowler’s role then England could be tempted to drop a batsman, possibly James Vince, to bring in an extra pace bowler.