Cricket: Williamson urged to up tempo

New Zealand's selectors have a simple request of talented batsman Kane Williamson when he gets his chance in Saturday's third one-day cricket international against Pakistan at Christchurch - do your best to up the scoring rate.

Williamson gets his first opportunity of the series having replaced Jesse Ryder in one of three changes to the 12 who featured in the first two matches, a nine-wicket win at Wellington last Saturday and yesterday's match at Queenstown, which was abandoned after just 4.2 overs of play were possible before rain set in.

In other changes, uncapped left-arm spinner Luke Woodcock replaces captain Daniel Vettori, while pace bowler Kyle Mills comes into the squad for allrounder James Franklin.

Williamson scored a century in Bangladesh last October but struggled in three matches in India two months later, totalling 75 runs from 147 balls batting at No 3.

The selectors would like to see him bat in the middle order at Christchurch.

They believe he is suited more to the role of pushing into gaps when the field is back during the middle overs rather than trying to force the issue with a ring field at the top of the order, although captain Daniel Vettori will have the final say on the batting order.

"Obviously in India his scoring rate wasn't considered to be ideal, but we think he's such a talent that he will adjust his game," selector Glenn Turner said yesterday.

"We'd like to think the rest of the season for Northern Districts and the games he will play in this series will bring him more up to speed with the tempo that is required.

"It's fair to say he may have to look batting more middle order than at top with field spread. He's quite good at working the ball around and once the field is set back he'll probably find scoring easy.

"We think he's a fast learner, we think he's talented and we'd like to think over the next two or three weeks he'll bring himself up to speed."

Vettori asked to stay with the team as 13th man, while Ryder, who made 55 in the first match, and Franklin have been released to play in the domestic one-day competition for Wellington. Oddly, Franklin has not yet batted in the series but finds himself on a plane home today.

Ross Taylor will be the captain at Christchurch while Jamie How will open alongside Guptill and Williamson is likely to bat at No 5, with Scott Styris pushed up a spot to No 4.

The changes are part of the selectors' rotation policy for this six-match series as they attempt to give all 15 players in the World Cup squad time in the middle ahead of the subcontinent-hosted tournament, which starts in mid-February, as well as trialling different combinations.

The squad of 12 have been selected for one match only, however, with the abandoned match yesterday having curtailed their plans to reselect the team after every two matches.

Frustrated spectators were officially put out of their misery at 1517 (NZT) when the umpires decided there was no chance the match could get underway by 1617, which was the cut-off point of a minimum 20 overs-a-side match.

Rain delayed the start by an hour, which initially reduced the match to 48 overs a side, but only 4.2 overs were possible before the precipitation returned and set in for the afternoon.

Pakistan had raced through to 31 without loss, with Ahmed Shehzad 25 not out and Mohammad Hafeez on four.

It was the second international in succession which has been abandoned here, and the third washout from nine one-day internationals at the Queenstown Events Centre.

New Zealand lead the six-match series 1-0 heading to Christchurch.

- NZPA

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