England are yet to play simultaneous cricket in New Zealand. In the first Test at Hamilton the batting and bowling were abject but the fielding was magnificent. Last week in Wellington the roles reversed; the fielding was dreadful, the batting and bowling were pretty good.
Here, in Napier England will need all aspects of their cricket firing if they are to take the match and with it a first overseas series win in three years. In Wellington, the Basin Reserve pitch allowed Michael Vaughan's side to get away with dropping catches. On a surface that offers bowlers continual assistance wicket-taking opportunities can come around regularly, but on good batting pitches these chances occur far less frequently and they have to be taken. McLean Park is accepted as one of the most batsman-friendly surfaces in New Zealand.
Paul Collingwood usually sets standards in the field to which other members of the team aspire but England's finest fielder had a bit of a shocker in Wellington. Collingwood grassed two fairly straightforward catches at second slip, one of which he did not see. On another occasion they could have cost England victory.
The drops did not affect Collingwood's confidence; England's nuggety No 6 scored a fighting half-century in each innings and took a career-best 3 for 23 in New Zealand's first innings. On other occasions the performance would have won him the man-of-the-match award.
"I cannot get past 60 at the moment, which is a bit frustrating, but you would probably take a score like that at the start of your innings," said Collingwood, following the team's flight from Wellington to Napier. "I would like to go on and get that big score and I think it is just around the corner. But I am pretty pleased with the way I am playing. The only thing I need to work on is my slip catching.
"Dropping catches can sometimes leave a bit of a mental scar. It can dent your confidence. I got a bit worried with one because I did not see it at all and that is not a good thing fielding in the slips. Thankfully none of us behind the wicket saw it. If it had just been me I might have asked to move from there. But I am not going to get overly concerned. I have a good pair of hands and this week I will be looking forward to the ball coming to me."
Collingwood is at a loss as to why England fielded so poorly at the Basin Reserve. In the first Test Vaughan's side put in one of the finest catching displays from an an England side in living memory. Yet in Wellington they missed at least 10 wicket-taking opportunities.
"We didn't field very well in the last game," Collingwood said. "It can happen. I don't want to make excuses but the sighting is different at different grounds. It could also have been a bit of tension. We weren't nervous about winning the game but we have not been in a position like that for some time and it can filter through the side. Hopefully we will return to the form of Hamilton and take every chance that comes our way."
Collingwood's chances of posting a substantial first-innings score have not been helped by the changes in England's batting order. Prior to this tour Collingwood had not batted lower than No 5 since England won the Ashes at The Oval in September 2005. The 31-year-old, who scored 206 against Australia at Adelaide last winter when batting at five, is not particularly happy with the situation but he currently has little alternative other than to get on with it.
"I was disappointed to move down the order because it makes it hard to score those big hundreds," he said. "I understand why I am there and I'm happy to do the job there. It's an important position, it's a position where you need an experienced player to bat with the tail. I do enjoy playing that role, but the disappointing aspect of that position is that you can't score the big hundreds."
Cagey sixties and seventies may be the limit to Collingwood's run-scoring on most occasions batting at six and England would be content with a similar performance from him in the coming week. Collingwood believes England will win the series if they play to their potential.
"If we put in the performance that we can do, we should go on and win the game," he said. "It's always going to be tough when you've got players coming in at No 7 [Brendon McCullum] and No 8 [Daniel Vettori] like New Zealand have and they have very skilful bowlers, but we have the talent, skill levels and experience. If we put our best performance in we can win."Reuse content