Cairns relishing fight against odds

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The Independent Online

All the omens were good for New Zealand as they warmed up in Brisbane yesterday for their opening Test against Australia. First they watched the four-year-old New Zealand mare Ethereal win the Melbourne Cup at Flemington.

Then they watched their left arm spinner Daniel Vettori bowl for an hour in The Gabba nets with little sign of the injured ankle which has hampered him in recent months. Their best all-rounder, Chris Cairns, the man Australia fast bowler Glenn McGrath says is the Kiwi that Australia fear the most, took time out from net practice to face the cameras and claim that the home side's short odds to win the three-match series hands down will work in New Zealand's favour.

"They'll be expected to perform in their own country against a side which everybody has said is an underdog, so the pressure is definitely on them to perform," he claimed.

One man who will be expected to deliver is Australia's Shane Warne, who needs another 12 wickets to take his tally of Test scalps on home soil to 200.

* The Surrey off-spinner Gareth Batty, last season's Second XI cricketer of the year, has joined Worcestershire. Batty is Worcestershire's second close-season capture after last month's signing of Ben Smith.