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Bracewell upbeat about NZ chances

PTI | ByJulian Guyer (AFP), London
May 19, 2004 03:32 PM IST

New Zealand coach John Bracewell was in confident mood ahead of Thursday's first Test match against England at Lord's.

New Zealand coach John Bracewell was in confident mood ahead of Thursday's first Test match against England at Lord's.

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HT Image

In fact so positive was the former New Zealand off-spinner, he even took the unusual step of naming his side 48 hours in advance.

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"We actually let players know yesterday (Monday)," Bracewll told reporters at the squad's London hotel.

"We were more than happy with the XI that we decided on. There was no point in procrastinating about it," Bracewell, until last year coach at English county Gloucestershire, added.

"We wanted to give the players as much time as possible to prepare because of the slowness of our start due to the weather and conditions. It was there, why not say?"

New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming was passed fit to play after recovering from a hip problem.

Meanwhile top order batsman Nathan Astle was cleared for his first Test since playing against India at Mohali in October following knee surgery.

But, as Bracewell had already revealed, there was no place for fast bowler Shane Bond, still looking to regain full fitness following a stress fracture of the back.

New Zealand went down to a nine wicket defeat against Kent in their final warm-up match ahead of the three Test series but Bracewell insisted that result would have no bearing on how his team performed against England.

"I think we are very well prepared over the last few days. The guys have flicked a switch in terms of the pace, they've picked it up.

"Most modern-day teams who are used to turning up in a country playing one warm-up game and going straight into a Test match have that ability to be able to switch on when need be and use warm-up games as required.

"I'm more than confident our guys ready are for the game starting on Thursday."

Bracewell made alterations to the top order with Fleming promoted to opener and Astle in at Fleming's usual number three spot.

But he added he did not expect either batsman to have problems with their new roles. "There's not a lot of difference between one and three anyway because they could be in within a ball.

"Stephen feels at home with that position (opening) because he's become quite comfortable with it at one-day level. He's used to getting his pads on, going out there and facing the first ball."

Turning to Astle, Bracewell said: "Nathan is happy to be there (number three). As a senior player, we are happy with him to take that decision. When approached about it, he said 'yeah, love to'."

Past New Zealand touring sides to England have often bridled about the way they have been under-rated in the British media.

On their last tour here in 1999 reports of New Zealand's 2-1 Test series victory often slammed England's efforts without taking into account the part the tourists had played in their downfall.

But Bracewell said: "It's not a problem for us. It's of no consequence how we are rated as a team. It's only a consequence how we feel about ourselves.

"I think these guys believe they can play cricket at a reasonable standard and I believe in them."

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