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Resilient New Zealanders resume battle at Lord's

Brendon McCullum, the New Zealand captain, believes his side displayed great character against England in the Test series at home

Resilient New Zealanders resume battle at Lord's - Cricket News
Brendon McCullum will be high on confidence after a terrific home series against England.
Resilience in the face of adversity has shaped the course of New Zealand cricket since naturalist Charles Darwin sighted freed Maori slaves and the son of a missionary at play in 1835.

Although rugby union and the world champion All Blacks have cast a permanent shadow over the summer game, New Zealand have consistently punched above their weight, particularly in the one-day arena.  

All their virtues of stubborn tenacity and the ability to maximise limited resources came into play this year when just one more England wicket would have meant an upset series victory at home.

Their unexpected heroics after a horrendous start to the year means that Thursday's first Test at Lord's has become, in effect, the fourth in a five-match series currently standing at 0-0.

An historical downside of New Zealand cricket has been an extraordinary ability to descend into factional infighting and feuding.

The latest imbroglio came when the country's best batsman Ross Taylor withdrew from a tour of South Africa after he was deposed as national captain in favour of Brendon McCullum.

In Taylor's absence, New Zealand were bowled out for 45 before lunch on the first morning of the first Test, equalling the 12th lowest Test innings total.

Taylor returned to the team for the one-day and Test series against England but, after a century in the second one-day international, his form was modest and he scored only 94 in five Test innings.

Tellingly, he hinted that all was still not well when he said after the series: "I wouldn't say I'm as comfortable as I would like to be, but I guess that will improve with time."  

GRIPPING SERIES

The issue flared up again when former New Zealand batsman John Parker, who played 36 Tests in the 1970s, released a document questioning decisions made by New Zealand Cricket (NZC), including the Taylor ousting.

NZC countered by saying the document "consists of hearsay, speculation and rumour and appears to concentrate almost entirely on attempting to re-litigate the issues surrounding the replacement of Ross Taylor as Black Caps captain".

Taylor and McCullum both left the Indian Premier League early to join the tour of England, although persistent rain during the match against the England Lions last weekend meant they have had only one innings before the Lord's Test.

McCullum, still only 31, is effectively in his third incarnation as a Test player. He started as a wicketkeeper-batsman before injuries took their toll, moved to opener in 2010, where he scored his highest Test score of 225 against India, and batted number six against England.

The latter position seems ideally suited to one of the world's most exhilarating attacking batsmen, whose strength, bat speed and enterprise earned him 248 runs at an average of 82.67 against England this year.

"I thought we deserved to win the series against England. The guys were absolutely heartbroken by not getting across the line. But it was one of those things, it was a gripping series." McCullum said on arrival in England.

"From where we were at the start of that series, especially after a tough South African tour, to where we sat at the end, we could take an immense amount of pride in the characteristics that we showed on the field."

New Zealand, as former Australia captain Steve Waugh once pointed out with a hint of exasperation, like to assume the role of underdogs. McCullum clearly prefers to accentuate the positives.

Asked about the 1980s New Zealand side, which was undefeated at home for a decade and recorded series wins both home and away against England and Australia, McCullum said it was hard to compare eras.

"The team of the early 1980s achieved some excellent things," he said. "But these guys are excellent players and have the potential to be equal, if not better, than what they were."

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