Brendon McCullum could end England's hopes of Test win, says Bob Willis
A quick-fire blast from Brendon McCullum could end England's hopes of an unlikely win, says Bob Willis.
Last Updated: 24/03/13 11:48am
Trent Boult took 6-68 as the tourists struggled to 204 all out on Sunday and, despite New Zealand losing Hamish Rutherford, Ross Taylor and Kane Williamson before the close to finish on 35-3, the hosts lead by 274 and sit in pole position to take the victory and earn a 1-0 series success.
Former England quick Willis praised McCullum's captaincy at stumps on day three and reckons the 31-year-old, who is the next batsman in for the hosts, could propel the Black Caps into a match-winning position with a swashbuckling display on Monday.
"It's fascinating stuff; we've seen lots and lots of maiden overs between little surges of run scoring, flurries of wickets and it's been thoroughly entertaining, engaging Test match cricket," Willis told Sky Sports.
"It's virtually impossible to predict what will happen but let's make no mistake about it New Zealand are in a fantastic position. There's only been one last innings run chase of over 300 to win a Test match on this ground and England have got it all to do still.
"I can't help thinking one B. McCullum may have something to say before this Test match is done, as well.
"I've been very impressed with his captaincy and if anybody can lift the scoring rate for New Zealand in this second innings, it's him. An hour of him and England may have more than 400 to chase."
Former England skipper Mike Atherton reckons 400 is the minimum target New Zealand should set the tourists, after opting not to enforce the follow on.
However, the former opening batsman says there are still some question marks about the home side's ability to convert dominant positions into Test match victories.
"New Zealand will be aiming to get England in for half an hour before tea on day four, and that will give them the last session and then three sessions on the final day to bowl England out," he said.
"They'll need a bit of time because it's still a good pitch; there's pace and bounce and swing's a factor. There's a little bit of turn, too, but England won't go to bed worrying about spin.
"However, when New Zealand get themselves into dominate positions they're not quite confident enough to be very assertive. They don't have a recent history of winning series and Test matches so don't have the confidence England have after their rise up the rankings.
"New Zealand came out for their second innings with a big lead but then suddenly were 8-3. Despite having a lead of 274, they'll be quite nervous going into day four because they don't have that deep confidence yet."
England were in severe trouble at 72-5 early on Sunday, but Matt Prior (73) and Joe Root (45) produced a hard-fought century stand to keep them in with a chance - and Willis applauded the efforts of the wicket-keeper-batsman.
"England would have been out of the game if it had not been for Matt Prior," he said.
"That was a marvellous counter-attack once again from him.
"He and Joe Root really did save England's bacon. They could have been history if it hadn't been for England's wicket-keeper."