- England in New Zealand 2012-13
Taylor fired up for final push
Ross Taylor has been through his fair share of ups and downs in recent months but he could yet cap an eventful season by being part of a New Zealand side that beats England in a Test series at home for only the second time in their history.
Taylor was not born on the previous occasion in 1983-84 - a series decided when England were shot out twice for double figures in Christchurch - but at 29, he is now one of the most experienced players in a developing New Zealand team. There appeared little chance of them competing with England only a few months ago, when they were being dismantled by South Africa in the wake of Taylor's sacking from the captaincy, but while there remains an uneasy truce between Taylor and the coach Mike Hesson, they have proved far more competitive at home.
There were a few warning signs in Wellington, where New Zealand's bowling lacked penetration on the first day and the batsmen could only manage 254 on a docile surface before being asked to follow on, but it was by no means certain that they would have lost if the weather had not turned. Taylor, in partnership with Kane Williamson, was leading a stubborn second innings and they have brought the series down to a one-game playoff.
"It's a position we haven't been in for a while and we've played some good cricket," Taylor said. "We know we'll have to be at our best to compete with this English side and we have five more days of tough cricket. If we can play to our potential we are a chance.
"You don't need much motivation, it's nil-nil in a series against England, playing on our home turf and it's the first time we've played at Eden Park for a few years, so there's a lot to play for."
Much of the debate has centred around why England have not won rather than why New Zealand have not lost, but neither team can really claim any ascendancy going into the final match. "It's a probably a fair reflection on the way the series has gone," Taylor said. "Another day either way could have allowed both teams to win."
More bounce is expected on the drop-in pitch at Eden Park, which is hosting its first Test since 2006, although similar sentiments were made in the build-up to the second Test and the bounce was steady rather than steep. The back-foot techniques of the New Zealand batsmen have yet to be really tested in this series, but they do not lie awake at night worrying about what may happen.
"I'm sure our bowlers will look forward to bowling on a bouncier wicket," Taylor said. "I think it was bouncy in Wellington and I can't see it being too much more so here."
Dean Brownlie, who learnt his cricket in Western Australia, would actually enjoy the prospect of a quicker pitch. "It definitely suits my game," he said. "We have to be good all around the world and this is another opportunity to learn in bouncier conditions.
"In the past I've played a few T20s here and it's been flat with good carry and bounce. I'm not sure how it will go for a five-dayer, but playing four-day games on Eden Oval No. 2, there has been great bounce and carry."
In another boost to New Zealand, Doug Bracewell returned to action on Wednesday in a Ford Trophy match against Canterbury as he aimed to prove his fitness ahead of the third Test. He took 1 for 55 from his 10 overs and, if he comes through the outing without any reaction to his foot injury, he will join the New Zealand squad in Auckland on Thursday.
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo