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Thursday, December 3, 2009

Cricket: History counting against Black Caps

Shane Bond being invalided out of a series is not the only recurring nightmare preying on the minds of New Zealand's cricketers as they approach today's second test against Pakistan at the Basin Reserve.

An injured Bond's unavailability represents a potentially serious setback to a team that has a worrying history when leading a three-match series 1-0.

On three occasions New Zealand has let an advantage slip - on the cannabis-gate tour of South Africa in 1994, in Sri Lanka four years later and most recently when hosting England in March/April last year.

Captain Daniel Vettori hardly needed reminding of the English series when ruling out complacency as a potential pitfall when Pakistan attempts to become the fourth team to regroup and prosper after dropping the first test.

New Zealand dominated the first match of the English series in Hamilton, winning by 189 runs before being soundly beaten at the Basin Reserve (126 runs) and Napier (121 runs).

Despite being justifiably pleased after securing a tense 32-run triumph in Dunedin last weekend, Vettori has warned his teammates a series victory - what would be only the third in 19 attempts against Pakistan - was far from certain.

"I think the guys are feeling good about themselves but there's a need not to get caught up in that, and a need for improvement," he said.

"It was a good test performance but there's a series that needs to be won.

"We've done it in the past against England where we've gone 1-0 up and in a lot of ways rested on our laurels. We lost the next two test matches.

"There was a real desire within the team to have celebrated in Dunedin - and also to make sure it's not the end of the summer."

New Zealand's batting unit will likely have a significant influence on whether the year ends on a high note considering a traditionally bouncy wicket should be spiced up by spending the best part of four days under cover as rain lashed the capital.

The home side's batting frailties are well documented and with Mohammad Aamer, Mohammad Asif and Umar Gul all in the zone at University Oval, the trio can expect to cause more angst among a fragile top and middle order.

Of the specialists, only Ross Taylor produced a notable double last week with 94 and 59.

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