Cricket: Batting places under threat

By Andrew Alderson

John Wright. Photo / Greg Bowker
John Wright. Photo / Greg Bowker

After several sobering practices in the dry state of Ahmedabad, New Zealand's middle order batting places are under threat in the event of a further failure against Zimbabwe tonight.

The capitulation to Australia in Nagpur, where the top six contributed just 58 runs in a total of 206, has incensed coach John Wright. It's understood he has placed Kane Williamson on standby.

Williamson has been accused of a slow strike rate at this level - 60 over 10 innings - but he has made a start in his last five matches and was the last New Zealander to score a century in a one-dayer on the subcontinent, with 108 in Dhaka.

He and Jesse Ryder also scored test centuries against India at the venue for tonight's match.

Batting time - specifically so New Zealand are no worse than three wickets down after 35 overs - fits with the Wright plan.

James Franklin could be under the most threat with another failure, despite being New Zealand's saviour on the subcontinent with three unbeaten innings (including a 98 and 72) when he was recalled to the one-day side to play India in December.

Vice-captain Ross Taylor must also be coming into focus, although his superb catching might save him.

In six ODI innings this year he scored a 69 and a 23 - the rest were under 10.

Martin Guptill's consistency, Brendon McCullum's wicketkeeping, Ryder's form and Scott Styris' economy rate with the ball on the subcontinent mean they are likely to stay in the first XI for now. Jacob Oram also looks set to return after being dropped for Jamie How against Australia.

Mills' return was signposted by Wright, which means Hamish Bennett misses out or Tim Southee is rested.

The New Zealanders faced strict net session rules this week to curb their enthusiasm for swashbuckling hits.

Net time ended smartly for anyone who bashed one over the top. Two of the three nets were stacked with local spin bowlers and the strike was rotated with the setting of imaginary fields.

Captain Daniel Vettori says they're not getting too worked up about facing up to 40 overs of spin against an attack including Ray Price, the world's third-ranked one-day bowler.

"It's a lot of straightforward spin but it's not [the delivery trickery of] Muttiah Muralitharan or Saeed Ajmal. They're bowling well and we have to counter that, especially with our top five."

Price's affability masks an aggressive mindset. He wants to erase the easy-beat tag.

"Nobody likes to be called a minnow. We wouldn't mind being called sharks," he said.

At 34 he is feeling the elder statesman.

"They are always trying to hide me in the field, which is entertaining. I'm young at heart, but it's sad when people keep asking if you're the coach."

Despite Price's geniality New Zealand need to be wary.

- NZ Herald

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