England had one injury setback but avoided another on the eve of the deciding third cricket test against New Zealand which starts Friday at Eden Park.
Kevin Pietersen was ruled out of the match with a knee injury and will be sidelined for six weeks, missing the entire Indian Premier League in which he'd been expecting to take up a record $1.3 million contract.
Jonny Bairstow is likely to replace Pietersen in the batting lineup, joining 22-year-old Joe Root in a young middle order.
Fast bowler James Anderson has declared himself fit for the match after recovering from heel and back injuries which hampered him during the drawn second test at Wellington.
Both the first and second tests were rain-affected and ended in tame draws. The first day of the first test was lost to rain and most of the last two days of the second test were washed out, leaving the series to be decided on a drop-in pitch at Auckland.
Anderson has played a relatively muted role in the series so far and admitted his body was feeling the strain of his recent bowling duties. But he said he was ready to lift for the last test in which No. 2-ranked England would press hard for a series victory over No. 8-ranked New Zealand.
"I don't think fresh is the word," he said. "But when you've got just one big test left you always manage to find something a little bit extra in the tank, knowing we have got a few weeks off when we get home.
"I feel okay, and the rain probably helped in the end, getting an extra day off. It gave my body an extra bit of rest."
Anderson needs only five more to reach 300 wickets in tests but said he would not let that milestone play too large a part in his approach to the match.
"It would be a huge achievement, but first of all I've got to get some wickets," he said. "I think two is the most I've got in an innings on this trip, so that's the first thing I've got to try to do.
"I'm aware of it, but it's something, once I get into the game I won't be thinking about."
The weather forecast is for fine weather on all five days of the third test, leaving a strong possibility of a result unless the pitch proves as lifeless as those at Dunedin and Wellington.
Eden Park is hosting a test match for the first time in seven years and the properties of its pitch, which has provided a fast and true surface for one-day and Twenty20 series, are unknown over the course of five days. Whether the pitch will provide seam and bounce on the opening day and how much it will deteriorate over the remaining four days are factors which may only be revealed as the match proceeds.
The boundaries at the ground, venue for the 2011 Rugby World Cup final, are short by international standards and will demand additional accuracy from bowlers on both sides. Some in the England camp have been critical of the low and flat nature of the pitches for the first two tests but Anderson wasn't bothered.
"Test pitches around the world are generally quite flat and you've got to work hard for your victories," he said. "It's no different out here.
"If we hadn't had rain in the first two games, there would probably have been a result. So you can't say they're not result pitches ... you've just got to work hard as a bowler to get 20 wickets in a game."
"The one-day pitch here (in Auckland) was a pretty good cricket wicket — a bit of bounce and pace in it for the seamers, not much seam movement. If we did manage to come away with a win, it'd be a fantastic winter for English cricket throughout all forms of the game."
A win would perhaps be a larger achievement for New Zealand, given its current standing in world cricket and the lows it hit during its tour to South Africa late last year. New Zealand lost both tests against No. 1-ranked South Africa by an innings and was bowled out for only 45 before lunch on the first day of the first test.
Captain Brendon McCullum said New Zealand was working hard to remedy its current low standing and its recent lack of consistency in tests.
"Since South Africa, the way we've responded in short version cricket and in this (test) series as well, against an outstanding English team, has been really pleasing," McCullum said. "The thing for us is to remain consistent in our performances and continue to trend in the right direction.
"You're going to have some bad days along the way but we've just got to make sure that we're improving as a team and we're competing with the better teams around the world on a more consistent basis.
"We can be competitive in the short forms of the game and even if we're going through a bad trot we can turn up and have a great performance and get a win in the column. Test cricket is something everyone wants to see you earn the right over a long period of time through the game, to perform and show that you're good enough."
McCullum said the New Zealand fans the cricket purists "want to see our test game improving and we do equally."
"That's why this series so far has been really good for us but we know we're going to be judged on how we finish at the end of this test match."