Cricket: Spin will be key to unwinding Windies

By David Leggat

Captain Ross Taylor expects spin to be crucial this season. Picture / NZPA
Captain Ross Taylor expects spin to be crucial this season. Picture / NZPA

Spin, both delivering it and playing it, will be a key element in this weekend's T20 double-header between the West Indies and New Zealand in that hotbed of cricket, Florida.

As conditions for the world tournament in Sri Lanka in mid-September are expected to favour teams well-resourced with spinners and batsmen who play it well, the games kicking off New Zealand's first bilateral tour to the Caribbean in 10 years have an extra significance.

The West Indies have two spinners in their squad - 31-year-old uncapped legspinner Samuel Badree and fellow Trinidad and Tobago tweaker Sunil Narine.

While Badree's background doesn't suggest the arrival of the latest whizzbang exotic twirler, Narine is interesting.

He was a teammate of Brendon McCullum at the Kolkata Knight Riders en route to winning the Indian Premier League a few weeks ago.

Kolkata bid US$700,000 ($876,000) for Narine, who took 24 wickets at a competition-best average of 13.5 and topped the economy rate at 5.47 runs conceded per over.

He didn't raise too many alarms in England recently, but New Zealand captain Ross Taylor expects Narine to be more of a handful in more familiar conditions.

"Playing spin is going to be crucial, not only here and in the West Indies but on the subcontinent," Taylor said yesterday. "Our first two games [at the world T20] are against Pakistan and Bangladesh, so playing spin is going to be key."

Taylor singled out middle order batsmen Dean Brownlie and Kane Williamson as two players who could have influential roles both this weekend and throughout the Caribbean tour.

"Those two players are very good players of spin, and playing T20 is not always about hitting boundaries. It's about rotating the strike. If necessary, they can hit a big ball but can rotate it around as well."

Taylor will also be looking for opener Martin Guptill to justify his world No1 T20 batting ranking, but with several players clearly inked in for the world tournament, there is an expectation competition will be tight for other places in that squad.

There are no guarantees all 15 players will get a game over the American leg. Taylor said some players might have to wait until the ODIs starting in Jamaica next Friday to see action.

New Zealand are ranked No4 on T20 standings, five places higher than their opponents, although that's a touch misleading.

You get a sense there won't be much between these teams over the course of the tour.

"It'll be a good series right through to the tests," seamer Tim Southee said yesterday. "They're two evenly balanced sides and obviously have got world-class players in both sides. It will be an exciting challenge, but we're up for it."

Crowds of close to 15,000 are expected at the Central Broward Regional Park in Lauderhill for each of the two games. It's a purpose-built facility, prone to gusty cross-winds, and it has been hot this week.

The locals, buoyed by a solid number of expatriates from the Caribbean, India and Pakistan, will be hoping Gayle and co turn up the heat too.

Taking into account the respective build-ups for the teams, taking these two games would represent a strong start to a busy year's international commitments for New Zealand.


West Indies v New Zealand

* First T20, Lauderhill, Florida, from 2.30am NZT tomorrow

* West Indies: (from) Darren Sammy (c), Chris Gayle, Dwayne Smith, Lendl Simmons, Johnson Charles, Marlon Samuels, Denesh Ramdin, Dwayne Bravo, Kieron Pollard, Sunil Narine, Ravi Rampaul, Samuel Badree, Fidel Edwards.

* New Zealand: (from) Ross Taylor (c), Martin Guptill, Rob Nicol, Daniel Flynn, Kane Williamson, Dean Brownlie, BJ Watling, Tom Latham, Jacob Oram, Andrew Ellis, Doug Bracewell, Nathan McCullum, Tim Southee, Kyle Mills, Ronnie Hira.

- NZ Herald

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