Cricket: NZ braced for all-out spin attack

By Andrew Alderson

Zimbabwe have been largely written off as a means for the New Zealand cricket team to roll the arm over and swing the willow at leisure on their way to the World Cup quarter-finals.

That assumption fails to consider the African nation, so long the political pariahs, actually did win a one-day international against Bangladesh in their tour to the subcontinent in December, unlike New Zealand.

They have produced a number of solid performances of late, even against Australia in group play, largely through a spin attack revelling in the conditions. On the Bangladesh tour, spin accounted for 14 of the 25 wickets they took in four completed matches.

Little has changed at the World Cup, as was seen against Canada in their second group game. The combination of the left-arm orthodox Ray Price, off spinner Prosper Utseya and leg spinner Graeme Cremer accounted for eight Canadian wickets.

The 34-year-old Price has been opening the bowling - some describe him as a fast bowler trapped in a slow bowler's body - with success since he returned to internationals in 2007. His eight overs picked up three wickets for 16 runs against Canada.

New Zealand will need to prepare to counter a level of aggression which has him ranked as the third best one-day bowler in the world.

But New Zealand is taking no chances, stacking two of the three nets at training with local spinners as well as using Daniel Vettori and Nathan McCullum with a new ball.

Coach John Wright kept a close eye on proceedings. The New Zealand batting line-up is understood to have been told future places at the tournament could be up for debate with further failure tomorrow night.

New Zealand bowling coach Allan Donald spent time with Price and a number of his Zimbabwean teammates during a stint coaching in the country.

"Zimbabwe play fearless cricket, they don't stand back for anybody. I'd call them an uneducated but dangerous cricketing nation at the moment, having been out for so long.

"Price is a great influence on their youngsters. He's a passionate guy who likes to get stuck in. We should just be glad he's not a quick bowler because he's got that mentality."

Martin Guptill and Jesse Ryder have been part of New Zealand's batting inertia. Guptill rifled off a century against Ireland in the warm-ups but has scored just one 50 on the subcontinent in 12 official one-dayers. Ryder has a top score of 34 in 10 ODIs in this part of the world.

"We've had a talk [with Wright]," Ryder says. "We [the top and middle order] realise we are a weak point at the moment. The plans we've set in place are to be only two to three wickets down after 35 overs.

"I love playing spin, so patience is the key; like being happy to milk singles."

Guptill acknowledges playing spin has been the main focus at training: "To counter the number of spin bowlers in their side, we've been rotating the strike regularly [in practice] and hopefully in the game the boundaries will eventually come."

- NZ Herald

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