Black Caps v Pakistan: 5 things we want to see

By David Leggat

Selector Gavin Larsen made it clear Martin Guptill and Kane Williamson are the first choice pair. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Selector Gavin Larsen made it clear Martin Guptill and Kane Williamson are the first choice pair. Photo / Mark Mitchell

New Zealand have completed the first of five home Twenty20 internationals which are preparation for March's world T20 in India.

What do we want to see over the course of these games, the second against Sri Lanka at Eden Park on Sunday, and the three against Pakistan on January 15, 17 and 22 at Eden Park, Hamilton and Welllington respectively.

1 Nail down the openers

Selector Gavin Larsen made it clear Martin Guptill and Kane Williamson are the first choice pair. No problems there, speed and class blended together. Williamson has opened in 12 of his 25 ODIs, averages 30.54 at a strike rate of 130.23, slightly up on his overall marks. Guptill averages 32.13 at a 123.38 strike rate. They should depart for India with their relationship at the top intact and in good touch.

2 A quality, and lively, middle order

At the World Cup last year, it was a blend of Grant Elliott, Corey Anderson and Luke Ronchi who did the job. Can that trio reprise their roles in India? They'll be given every chance. Add in the likes of Colin Munro and Mitchell Santner, and it's a likely-looking quintet. It has been signalled that others could get an opportunity against Pakistan. But if those five are in strong, assertive touch, they can lock themselves in for an overseas trip.

3 Top drawer fielding

This shouldn't be an issue, based on the recent ODIs where most of the work was high quality. It is the one area of the game where players can exert influence without needing help, or otherwise, from the opposition. Do their drills sharply and efficiently, and that includes backing up throws at the stumps, getting relay throwing from the deep working smoothly, and 10 runs can be saved in 20 overs. That's often the difference between victory and defeat.

4 Sifting the fast bowling options

There are a few and these games should offer chances for candidates to put up their hand. In no particular order, Trent Boult, Mitch McClenaghan, Tim Southee - assuming he is fully fit well before then - Adam Milne, Matt Henry and Doug Bracewell are in the frame. Four or five to travel? On their form late last year in Africa, McClenaghan and Milne should go. McClenaghan gets wickets - 24 in 20 games at 23 - and Milne has the extra speed. Boult and Southee will go. A fifth might depend on Corey Anderson's ability to fill a full allrounder's role.

5 What of the second spinner?

Let's assume Santner goes. Yesterday was the first game he's missed since his test debut at Adelaide in late November. Here are the options: Nathan McCullum, assuming he is fully fit, is ranked eighth in the world and knows the format inside out. He's retiring at the end of the season. What of Ish Sodhi, Todd Astle or Tarun Nethula, the leg spinning alternatives? Or should it be a Ronnie Hira or Anton Devcich, left armers and, again like Santner, capable batsmen? And should batting ability be a significant determining factor in separating two bowlers? Variety says it should be a leggie. They have long put to bed the idea they'd be slaughtered in 20-over cricket. They can be enormously effective - four of the seven spinners among the world top 10 bowlers turn the ball from leg to off. So a leggie it is.

- NZ Herald

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