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FINNTASTIC; Captain Cook will need more than paceman's super six-wicket haul to save the series.

Byline: MIKE WALTERS in Auckland

STEVE FINN warned the warm-up will be harder to knock over than the headline act in this summer's Ashes. As England stumbled into an Eden hazard - not the footballer who kicked a ballboy, but a rugby stadium with a heartbreak ridge - Finn admitted New Zealand had been tougher to beat than a carpet with a teaspoon.

And although nobody would ever dare to admit it, the Kiwis are currently a more united, motivated outfit than a ragbag bunch lurching from one humiliation to another on the subcontinent.

New Zealand had their own dressing room squabble earlier this winter, but they have not dropped four players for failing to hand their homework in on time nor handed the captaincy to a rebel the next game after he was axed.

Finn equalled his Test-best figures of 6 for 125 as the Kiwis were finally dismissed for 443 at Eden Park, 152 overs after England skipper Alastair Cook had blundered by asking them to bat.

And Finn said: "By no means did we come over here believing this was going to be an easy series.

"We knew the wickets would be good over here, we knew we would have to work hard to win games, and through the Twenty20, the one-day series and now the Tests it's been a pretty even contest.

"We didn't under-estimate New Zealand - they have played some excellent cricket, and so they should because they have some excellent players. We know we've got a fight on our hands against them."

Finn admitted the lack of reverse swing had deprived England's seam bowlers of their favourite weapon, and admitted: "It is strange playing on a drop-in pitch surrounded by lush grass instead of a square. All around the wicket there is a bit of a ridge, and when the batsman hits the ball into the outfield, it plugs.

"And in terms of getting the ball to reverse swing, which we've been very good at, and getting the ball to do anything really, it's been difficult.

"But that's the way it is and we have to deal with it. We knew about the ridge, because it was there in the onedayer and the Twenty20 series, so it's nothing we hadn't anticipated, but it's up to the bowlers to work it out."

One of Finn's wickets came courtesy of Matt Prior's magnificent, one-handed catch down the leg side to dismiss centurion Peter Fulton - one of five for the wicketkeeper. Finn added: "Matt is integral to us, and to take five catches in an innings is a very good effort - some of those catches were as good as you'll ever see."

JONATHAN Trott has been cleared of sharp practice by New Zealand after umpire Rod Tucker twice called 'dead ball' because he waved as Monty Panesar approached to bowl. It's thought Trott, standing at slip, had spotted Brendon McCullum's trigger movement at the crease - which often precedes a premeditated shot - and was trying to tell Panesar to bowl wide of off-stump. But Kiwi batsman Kane Williamson said: "There was no comment from our players about that at all."


SALUTE: The England players applaud Steven Finn after his six wicket haul
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Mar 24, 2013
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