NEW ZEALAND'S batting has been their weaker suit this summer but the way they tuned up here for the Lord's Test on Thursday, grinding out their country's highest total in England, 591, you would not know it.
Passing 500 for the second time this tour - the sixth time a Kiwi side has totalled 500 in England - Stephen Fleming's men overtook New Zealand's 551 for 9 declared in the 1973 Lord's Test, as well as recording the second-highest total against Kent by a touring team.
Only the 676 in 1921 by Warwick Armstrong's Australians has embarrassed Kent's bowlers more.
The tourists' bowling, however, gives the New Zealanders greater concern as they approach the Test. Form is not the problem so much as fitness, the biggest blow being the knee injury that threatens to rule out Simon Doull.
Turning at the end of his run- up in the final over against Hampshire last Monday, Doull suffered a recurrence of a problem that has dogged his international career. Keyhole surgery has rectified the problem, but in theory the recovery period is two weeks.
No one is ruling Doull out of the Test, but the composition of the New Zealand team here suggests they will replace him with the opening batsman, Matthew Bell. This will bring a return for the 22-year-old to the place where he had an apprenticeship on the MCC ground staff. But it also means that New Zealand will be relying on three seam bowlers and the left-arm spin of Daniel Vettori.
Mind you, if Dion Nash returns to Lord's with the kind of performance he enjoyed there in 1994, that attack could be enough, with Craig McMillan and Nathan Astle as medium-pace back-up. Nash took 11 wickets and scored 56 in his only innings, and it took some time-wasting tactics by England's lower order to frustrate the Kiwis then.
Nash has been nursing a side strain of late and did not bowl in the first innings here. However, a thumping 66 not out on the third day, containing nine fours and a six, suggests one side of his game is on song. Geoff Allott also took it quietly here, resting a niggle in the groin, and if it had not been for Chris Cairns' heroic bowling on the first day the Kiwis rather than Kent could have spent the long, long hours in the field.
Yesterday Cairns added an easy, attractive 43 to his seven first-innings wickets and while New Zealanders would welcome a repeat double at Lord's many would settle for a good haul of wickets. A Test batting average of 27 and a bowling average of 32 suggests that Cairns has some way to go as an all-rounder.
Assuming Bell opens with Matthew Horne, the New Zealanders will bat a long way down, with Roger Twose moving to the middle order and Cairns and Nash who put on 105 yesterday for the eighth wicket, coming in at eight and nine. Twose, dropped twice on Friday when 52, went on to 73 from 161 balls, an advance on his four-ball tenure in the first test, before being caught behind to prove the old adage that you only live twice.
When Kent eventually had a chance to enjoy their place in the sun, a mere 390 runs in arrears, the opener Ed Smith relished the conditions and the situation to make his second half-century of the match. With Geoff Allott again taking it easy, the Kiwis toiled on a flat pitch, and might have to work hard today for victory. Kent ended the day on 145 for 2, Smith unbeaten on 74 and Matthew Banes on 18.Reuse content