Cricket: England ODI battle grist to Mills

By David Leggat

Veteran bowler won't entertain any thoughts of retiring from game yet

Kyle Mills can't wait to take on England in ODIs after success in South Africa. Photo / Getty Images
Kyle Mills can't wait to take on England in ODIs after success in South Africa. Photo / Getty Images

Going into his 12th year of international cricket, Kyle Mills is showing no sign of flagging.

Not required for the T20 series against England, the 33-year-old Mills is back for the ANZ international series ODI rubber, starting at Hamilton's Seddon Park tomorrow.

He's in good form - as five wickets at 24 apiece in the 2-1 victory in South Africa last month demonstrated - and far from feeling his age, reckons numbers don't mean much.

"It seems when you hit the early 30s retirement gets raised," he quipped. "When I was a kid growing up I was always told cricketers play their best cricket in their early 30s. I feel like I'm bowling well, had a good series in South Africa and want to continue that here."

The Champions Trophy in England in June - the tournament in which New Zealand reached the final last time, in 2009 - is a clear goal and he has been thinking ahead to the 2015 World Cup. That said, there are other priorities, his wife and two children uppermost, and a reassessment is looming at the end of the current contract.

Mills' ODI record is impressive. In 144 ODIs since April 2001, he has taken 212 wickets at 26.03. Only Dan Vettori with 274 from 268 games has more, but is five runs more expensive per wicket.

Mills expects a vigorous challenge from an England squad beefed up by the arrival of captain Alastair Cook and fellow top class batsmen Ian Bell and Jonathan Trott, leading seamer Jimmy Anderson and class spinner Graeme Swann.

Still, he likes what he saw from New Zealand's ODI squad in South Africa. That series showed the value of experience and the ability of cricketers to compartmentalise the game. New Zealand were roasted 2-0 in the test series which preceded the ODIs. Mills and fellow seasoned campaigners Grant Elliott and Nathan McCullum joined the squad for the ODIs.

"I guess we didn't have the battle scars from what happened in the tests. We came in pretty fresh off good form in the HRV Cup and at the end of the tour Brendon [McCullum] and [coach] Mike Hesson talked about how that lifted the guys' spirits," Mills said. "The nature of international cricket now, when you're chopping from series to series, and different formats, quite often you can put things that happened previously to bed quite quickly."

That said, Mills appreciates the value of winning and the effect the ODI series could have going into the three tests which end England's tour.

"If we play well it'll give the guys a little bit of confidence to hit the ground running in test series. Winning is a habit and a winning environment is far more enjoyable than a losing one which is constantly under pressure."

Changed rules around fielding restrictions, a topic particularly relevant to Mills, will make the series more challenging for bowlers, he said. Only two fielders are allowed outside the 30-yard circle in the first 10 overs, and three during the powerplay, which must happen before the 40th over. At other times a maximum of four - a reduction by one - can be placed outside the circle.

"That's pretty hard to bowl to," Mills said of the four-fielder rule. "And I imagine even more so on New Zealand grounds.

"Having only four out at Eden Park, Hamilton and even Napier is going to be a real test of bowlers' skill. I believe our wickets are the flattest in the world so it's going to be a huge challenge for all the bowlers in the series."

The series offers bowler-of-the-moment Mitchell McClenaghan a chance to extend his eye-catching start to his international career.

"He's hit the ground running," Mills said of his Auckland teammate.

Throw in the classy elements coming into the England squad and Mills is sure the intensity is about to heat up. England sit second behind India in the ODI game, although level on 119 rating points; New Zealand eighth. A series win could have them seventh, ahead of the West Indies. Every little bit helps right now.


NZ v England

First ODI. Seddon Park, Hamilton, 2pm tomorrow, live SS1

New Zealand: (from) Brendon McCullum (c), Martin Guptill, BJ Watling, Ross Taylor, Kane Williamson, Colin Munro, Grant Elliott, James Franklin, Andrew Ellis, Nathan McCullum, Kyle Mills, Trent Boult, Mitchell McClenaghan.

England: (from) Alastair Cook (c), Ian Bell, Jonathan Trott, Joe Root, Eoin Morgan, Jonny Bairstow, Samit Patel, Jos Buttler, Graeme Swann, James Tredwell, Stuart Broad, Chris Woakes, Steven Finn, James Harris, Jimmy Anderson.

New Zealand v England
Overall: P 70, W 35, L 29, T 2, N/R 4
At home: P 34, W 17, L 13, T 2, N/R 2

ODI schedule:
First match, Hamilton tomorrow
Second match, Napier, Wednesday
Third match, Eden Park, Saturday

- NZ Herald

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