Mark Richardson: Power play area needs close look

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In a one-day series against the West Indies where the weather held the upper hand, the Black Caps still had time to illustrate they are a force to be reckoned with.

They should prove competitive in Australia because they have strength in key positions. However, there is one key area that has recently surfaced where I do not believe the Black Caps have total control just yet.

The latest innovation by the ICC to move the timing of the last five-over optional power play to the discretion of the batting team has extended the acceleration phase of the match. The team who organise themselves to take advantage of it when batting and who hatch plans and the artillery to minimise damage when bowling will find success.

Most teams will look to take the power play somewhere between the 30th and 40th overs. That means you either need top-order players batting deep into the innings who will be established and in form to take advantage, or players in the lower-middle capable of coming out and hitting an old ball over the top early in their innings.

The current set-up appears to have Brendon McCullum and Jesse Ryder going hard through the first power plays, generating a strike-rate. Batting deep appears to be an after-thought.

If Ross Taylor is around come the batting power play, no problem, but if he is removed mid-innings you may find pressure being placed upon Daniel Flynn and Neil Broom to bat in the power play.

Broom hit the ball well in the Auckland ODI but one innings is not enough to judge. With Jacob Oram around, however, there is some good hitting power lower in the order and he is one player for whom the new rule is tailor-made.

But he is only one man and is absent too often.

While the power in the Black Cap batting order resides at the top of the order, there is still some quality in the lower order and thus I'm not as concerned about the potential of the batsmen to take advantage of the new power play rule as I am about their ability to stop the opposition batsmen from making merry with it.

Between Kyle Mills, Daniel Vettori and Oram, when fit, the Black Caps have the ability to restrict in the first half of an innings. However, they are still searching for a genuine ODI third seamer or trying to find a way of playing Jeetan Patel in the mix with the 20 overs of fielding restrictions.

It means that you need at least 15 overs of 'death-style' bowling. Patel has shown he can do it some of the time but slower bowlers are always a risk and it is not Vettori's strong point and using him thus is a waste.

Mills also does not excel later on in an innings to the same extent he does early. Somehow the Black Caps have to find consistent death-style bowling out of the likes of Grant Elliot, Ryder, Patel, Mark Gillespie and Tim Southee. None of them have shown consistent effectiveness in this role just yet.

- Herald on Sunday

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