Cricket: Heat goes on NZ batsmen

By Martin Davidson

Mark Greatbatch has been number crunching as he counsels New Zealand's batsmen ahead of the first cricket test against India starting today.

The New Zealand coach has donned a maths tutor's garb to simplify their task, which essentially boils down to batting for as long as possible to ensure the tourists are in with a fighting chance come the business end of a test which marks the debuts for fast bowler Hamish Bennett and 20-year-old batsman Kane Williamson.

Time in the middle equals runs equals depriving the Indians of the time required to do the same and squeeze the New Zealanders out of the game.

Greatbatch's fondness for numbers is evident as he pares the challenge down to its most basic form: a test is scheduled to last 1800 minutes, during which 2700 balls should be delivered.

"One ball is four seconds, one over is about four minutes and four overs are 15 minutes," Greatbatch said as his team prepare for their first test match since a 0-2 home series loss to Australia in March.

"You have to break it right down, that's how you chunk off some of the time.

"The message to our batsmen is to work together to try to achieve those little goals and build them up to some sizeable time."

New Zealand enter the three-match series with few expecting them to match the world No 1 Indians, who ooze quality with the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Virender Sehwag, VVS Laxman, skipper MS Dhoni, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma.

Above only Bangladesh and languishing at No 8 in the test rankings, the tourists have little to recommend them, although Greatbatch and skipper Daniel Vettori firmly believe their team can go toe to toe with the world heavyweights providing they do the basics right.

"We have to break the segments down and bat periods of time and I think the surfaces will allow that for the first three-four days of the tests," Greatbatch said.

A close inspection of the Sardar Patel Stadium pitch today persuaded Greatbatch and Vettori to go with a two seamer-two spinner bowling attack, with batsmen and part-time bowlers Jesse Ryder and Williamson entrusted to pick up the slack and contribute about 15 overs a day between them.

Veteran Chris Martin will share the new ball with 23-year-old Bennett, while Vettori and fellow specialist spinner Jeetan Patel can expect to get through plenty of overs on what Vettori describes as an "incredibly flat" pitch.

"It is going to mean a lot of hard work for the bowlers. The pressure goes on Jeetan and myself to take wickets and we want to use Chris and Hamish as strike bowlers."

Vettori confirmed that former wicketkeeper Brendon McCullum will open the batting alongside Tim McIntosh, with BJ Watling slipping down to No 3, ahead of Ross Taylor, Ryder and Williamson.

"It's where he wants to bat and I think that is half the battle," Vettori said of McCullum, a specialist gloveman for 51 of his previous 52 tests.

"If he clears his mind and plays his natural game, that is when he is at his best.

"There's no need to premeditate it in test match cricket, you just bat and bat and bat. With his natural aggression he is capable of scoring quickly."

Teams:-

New Zealand (from): Daniel Vettori (captain), Tim McIntosh, Brendon McCullum, BJ Watling, Ross Taylor, Jesse Ryder, Kane Williamson, Gareth Hopkins, Jeetan Patel, Hamish Bennett, Chris Martin.

India (from): MS Dhoni (captain), Virender Sehwag, Gautum Gambhir, Murali Vijay, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Suresh Raina, VVS Laxman, Cheteshwar Pujara, Harbhajan Singh, Pragyan Ojha, Amit Mishra, Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma, Shantakumaran Sreesanth.

Match referee: Ranjan Madugalle (Sri Lanka).

Umpires: Steve Davis (Australia), Kumar Dharmasena (Sri Lanka).

- NZPA

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