London: New Zealand will assess weather and pitch conditions on Thursday morning before making a final decision on whether to field four pace bowlers in the first Test against England at Lord's. On the eve of the first match in the two-Test series on Wednesday, captain Brendon McCullum said the final place would go to either Doug Bracewell or left-arm spinner Bruce Martin, who played in the drawn three-match series in New Zealand this year.
Rain is forecast throughout the first four days of the match and the prospect of a shortened game will also influence the selectors' decision with Kane Williamson able to chip in with a few overs of off-spin if Martin is omitted.
Martin bowled well and batted usefully in the first two Tests at home after making his debut at the advanced age of 32. But he failed to take a wicket in the third Test in Auckland, when New Zealand fell just short of winning the series, and was expensive in the tour match against the England Lions in Leicester.
"We've got 12 at the moment and that's just the balance issue for us," McCullum said. "We're trying to work out whether to play the four seamers or have Bruce and the same setup we brought into the three Tests at home. That's something we are going to look at in the morning. Either way we have got good options."
New Zealand made a horrible start to the year when Ross Taylor withdrew from their tour of South Africa after he was replaced as captain by McCullum. They were then bowled out before lunch for 45 on the opening day of the first Test. However, they then had the better of England in the first Test at home and eventually drew the series 0-0 after they needed only more wicket to win in Auckland.
"Obviously that series back home was really good for us. We learned a lot as a team. We know that this challenge is going to be a lot different and it's going to be a lot harder as well," McCullum told a news conference. "We know we are going to have improve as a team on our performance. We know that they (England) are going to be a tough proposition but we believe we have got some guys who will be favoured by these conditions as well."
McCullum said his relationship with Taylor, New Zealand's premier batsman who returned for the home series against England, was fine. "Ross has been great since we arrived in the UK, he's been outstanding. Ross is determined to perform well throughout this series," he said.
"We had a discussion when we first arrived here and it was a really good discussion. We have some great moments over the last 10 to 12 years and some great moments both on and off the field." McCullum, now batting at number six after a brief spell as a an opener, scored 248 at an average of 82.67 in the home series in England. His aggressive batsmanship was paralleled by an attacking and innovative approach as captain.
"It's early days," he said. "For us as a group, we know that we are going to struggle to go to go toe to toe with the big boys of world cricket playing our style of game for long periods. "We have been slow starters, we have tried to address that with our preparation on this tour. But these conditions are more familiar to us than they are on the Indian sub-continent, conditions where we have been caught on the hop."