Andrew Alderson

Andrew Alderson is a sport writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Cricket: Spin key as NZ look to attack England

Responsibility on Vettori and McCullum to probe weaknesses exposed in reigning champions

Defending world champions England stand between New Zealand and their ambitions of progressing further at cricket's World T20 tonight.

That sounds ominous, and perhaps it is, but on the evidence of both sides' performances at the tournament, New Zealand are favourites. Barring other results, complex mathematical equations and possibly a cameo by Aladdin, the loser would be gone.

The unknown for New Zealand fans is how much of a sting the 13-run loss to Pakistan and super over loss to Sri Lanka will have. Has it brought motivation or deflation to a side that have played decent cricket but haven't translated it into victories like their tournament opener against Bangladesh?

With just a day off (a welcome innovation compared with the soporific scheduling of the past few World Cups) New Zealand can only rest, run their eyes over some footage and perhaps scrawl a pen across a whiteboard.

The area England appear most vulnerable is spin. New Zealand need not overstack their bowling shelves by bringing in Roneel Hira but the onus goes on Daniel Vettori and Nathan McCullum to respond.

They struggled to combat the wrists and eyes of the Sri Lankan batsmen but England are a different proposition.

They are hesitant after capitulating to India for 80 as Harbhajan Singh and Piyush Chawla prised open their defences. The West Indies' Chris Gayle (6.75 runs an over) and Samuel Badree (five runs an over) also kept them tentative after pace bowler Ravi Rampaul seized two wickets in his opening over.

England captain Stuart Broad regretted their loss of a wicket in the first over of every match so far, even against Afghanistan.

"To lose two wickets (Craig Kieswetter and Luke Wright) in a disappointing manner was frustrating. Whoever takes responsibility against the new ball needs to do so in that first over."

There is debate as to whether Eion Morgan should come in higher in the England order. If he comes in at five against New Zealand at the start of the 11th over to score 71 not out off 36 balls, as he did against the West Indies, England are arguably wasting their most valuable resource. He has the highest strike rate (135) of their recognised batsmen.

Broad insists it is logical.

"Morgy's game is more suited to finding boundaries when the fields are back. He's not overly suited to piercing the infield (during the six-over opening power play). The risk and reward might be too high for someone so valuable."

On the bowling front, excellent Pallekele batting pitches mean width is punishable by someone jogging beyond the boundary rope. It was a point noted by Broad after playing at the venue.

"The bouncer kissed (the pitch) nicely and you've still got to have aggressive intent but anything outside off stump was basically four. You know good balls can also sail over your head in this format but if batsmen play outrageously good shots I think you have to nod and say 'well played'."

West Indians Johnson Charles and Chris Gayle destroyed the England bowling on their way to a 103-run, 66-ball opening stand. Charles had a more succinct response when asked if he thought the England attack was easy to face on his way to a career best T20 score of 84. "Yeah, it was."

New Zealand take note.

Andrew Alderson flew to the Twenty20 World Cup in Sri Lanka courtesy of Emirates Airline.

NZ v England
Pallekele Stadium, Kandy, 9.45 tonight live SS31

- NZ Herald

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