Gloves are off as Nixon promises to keep on sledging

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The Independent Online

It is questionable whether the batsmen of Australia and New Zealand are enjoying the presence of Paul Nixon behind them. Nixon, England's 36-year-old wicketkeeper, has been a non-stop bundle of energy since making his international debut at the Sydney Cricket Ground a fortnight ago.

His jaws have rarely stopped moving either, whether it be to encourage team-mates, give advice to his captain or get in the ear of the opposition, in the hope that he will unsettle them. Nixon's vitality has been welcomed by the England team, who look towards their gloveman to keep them focused and dynamic while in the field.

He is yet to shine in the Commonwealth Bank series with the gloves or bat but he seems certain to be England's wicketkeeper at the World Cup in March. "If I get under other people's skin than that's their prerogative," said Nixon as he prepared for tomorrow's one-dayer against New Zealand in Adelaide. "There are certain players that you give a little bit of stick to and others you don't.

"In the dressing-room I'm known as the Badger, because I'm mad for it. But I take that as a compliment. I would rather I was getting the stick than someone else who can't take it. I have got broad shoulders, a lot of passion for the game and it spills out in various areas."

One player who did cop a bit of stick was Australia's Michael Hussey, who survived a legitimate caught-behind appeal against England last Friday. Hussey went on to guide his side to a four-wicket victory in Brisbane, a result that makes the game between England and New Zealand pivotal.

"It is his choice," said Nixon when asked whether Hussey should have walked. "Everyone has their choices and fair play to him. In the heat of the battle he wants to win the game and that is exactly what I want to do. I am not a walker. You get the rough and the smooth, there are good and bad decisions ­ it is the nature of the game. But if you don't walk you're going to cop stick and that is fair enough. The Aussies would be exactly the same if it was the other way round."

England left Brisbane with spirits as high as they have been on the tour after pushing Australia close on Friday, and a second victory over New Zealand could almost ensure their qualification for the finals. New Zealand will be feeling pretty confident too after narrowly failing to beat Ricky Ponting's side in Sydney on Sunday. The "Black Caps" will welcome back Jacob Oram, a talented all-rounder who gives their side greater balance.

England's task during two matches in Adelaide is to get both disciplines of their game firing at once. In Melbourne, the batting was good and the bowling disappointing; in Brisbane, it was the other way around.

Mal Loye will continue at the top of the order while Michael Vaughan recovers from a hamstring injury. Vaughan will miss both games in Adelaide yet news on his injury is encouraging. He is hoping to be fit for his side's sixth match of the series in Perth.

England will contemplate making changes. Ed Joyce is yet to show his undoubted ability with the bat and Ravi Bopara could replace him. Monty Panesar may gain a recall after missing out in Brisbane. If the Adelaide pitch looks like it will take spin, Chris Tremlett will miss out.

Andrew Strauss needs a score, too. The Middlesex opener has only once reached 50 in 13 innings, and it is time he made a significant contribution. If Strauss fails, he may be the one to make way for Vaughan when the captain returns.