Andrew Alderson: No1 spot calls for full buffet

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If Twenty20 cricket is defined by the use of resources, Brendon McCullum's access to them must be maximised with the bat for New Zealand to achieve its best results.

120 balls is precious little to work with. Surely the world's top ranked T20 batsman needs to be offered the full buffet when he takes guard. The merit behind him batting at first drop in this format is fading.

A case study came from a tale of two innings between the West Indies and England. West Indian opener Chris Gayle (the world's second ranked T20 batsman) swaggered off after scoring 58 off 35 balls (strike rate 166) having started at the crease with 120 balls available.

Compare that with Eion Morgan who is at five for England. He has their highest overall strike rate (135) and many argue he's the best T20 batsman in their side. Morgan made 71 not out off 36 balls (strike rate 197) but started his innings with only 60 balls available - half the resource of Gayle. He was unbeaten at the end but England were, by 15 runs.

England captain Stuart Broad says the modus operandi behind Morgan's position is because he's more suited to finding boundaries when the field's back rather than the six-over power play at the start. Yet surely if he's the best T20 batsman in the team he needs access to more than half the innings.

A similar argument can be applied to McCullum who has had 100, 80 and 75 balls available in his respective starts against Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

Certainly there is more subtlety to opening the batting than bare strike rate, averages and boundary hitting. Running between the wickets, right or left-handed batting grips and camaraderie between a pair can all be valuable components to success.

Martin Guptill and Rob Nicol are doing a perfectly adequate job, both have had significant runs for New Zealand at this tournament and their 57 at a strike rate of 127 in their only opening partnership before last night was respectable against a potent Sri Lankan attack.

In eight matches opening together before the England game they averaged a relatively high 36 runs at a relatively low strike rate of 132 (see table). They consume just over four and half overs (23 per cent) of the innings.

Compare this to when McCullum opened in 12 innings with Jesse Ryder. They faced a similar proportion of the innings (22 per cent), averaged a similar number of runs (38.75) but the strike rate amped to 144.

Previous McCullum/Guptill efforts are harder to gauge. They've opened in five innings, averaged 59.2 runs a pop at a strike rate of 168. However, that data is skewed by two efforts (120 and an unbeaten 127) flaying hapless Zimbabwe. The other three partnerships have not produced more than 25.

McCullum's better performances at No 3 complicate matters. He has an average of 45 compared to 37.09 opening and a strike rate of 155 compared to 133. Since becoming the regular first drop in February against Zimbabwe, McCullum has been out for less than 25 in just two of eight innings; a decent measure in the fickle world of T20. Perhaps if he was issued with free licence at the top of the order it might revert to more hit or miss.

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

- Herald on Sunday

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