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Cricket: Munro breaks free at 3

Colin Munro has become a one-man T20 wrecking crew, writes Andrew Alderson.
Colin Munro has been in outstanding form for New Zealand. Photo / Getty Images
Colin Munro has been in outstanding form for New Zealand. Photo / Getty Images

Colin Munro is a wildcard any World T20 title contender would welcome less than eight weeks from the tournament in India.

With the shoulders of an axeman, the left-hander has bludgeoned, bashed and bruised consecutive Twenty20 international half-centuries as if Sonny Bolstad was the one holding the willow.

He tends to befriend the legside more than the off, and shots behind the wicket seldom get a wagon wheel invite in his batting frenzies.

If you're looking for a crowd catch, deep mid-wicket is the place to park. Munro unleashes a slog-sweep Steve Waugh would be proud of.

His elevation to No3 is a logical strategy by New Zealand to give their batsman with the highest strike rate the chance to score heavily without exposing him to a brand new ball. He had fewer chances batting down the order in his previous T20 internationals, but looks comfortable in his new role.

New Zealand have been looking for a batsman to replace the ballistic approach of the retiring Brendon McCullum.

Martin Guptill can provide that momentum as an opener, Munro can sustain it at first-drop, backed by Corey Anderson at No4.

Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor offer more stability in their respective roles at opener and No 5.

Munro has faced 237 balls in 19 Twenty20 internationals. For those who have faced as many or more deliveries, he has the second highest strike rate (159) behind Australian Glenn Maxwell's 160.

He is also only the fourth batsman to hit six or more sixes in consecutive T20 innings.

Oppositions will be sourcing video footage for a closer analysis.

The 28-year-old benefitted from Eden Park's relatively short boundaries in his 50 from 14 balls last week against Sri Lanka, the second fastest in T20 internationals behind Yuvraj Singh's 12-ball effort.

On Friday he blazed 56 off 27 balls against Pakistan's world-class T20 attack before playing on to pace bowler Wahab Riaz. The vehement send-off illustrated the frustration he can instil in the opposition.

Riaz bowled in a logical area, pitching up and offering enough width on a fifth stump to tempt, but too little to complete, the shot. There could also be a vulnerability to slower balls going incognito.

When Munro is in form, most other areas can have bowlers calling for a taxi to fetch. Bowl short of a length and he pulls into the legside; good-length balls are dispatched over boundaries in front of the wicket; over-pitch and out comes a regulation drive.

Prior to the past two matches, Munro had never settled in national colours, despite holding the world record for most sixes in a first-class innings - 23 sixes in 281 from 167 balls for Auckland against Central Districts in Napier last March.

There were flashes of brilliance, like the 73 not out from 39 to beat Bangladesh in a 2013 T20 in Dhaka. However, his past five limited overs innings - stretching to the South African tour in August - have brought no score less than 33 with his strike rate only once dipping below a run a ball.

The New Zealand selectors' perseverance is to be applauded. Munro could be window dressing in a batting opportunity shop by now, but the policy of Mike Hesson, Gavin Larsen and, formerly, Bruce Edgar to give players room to express a specific skill set continues to pay dividends.

- Herald on Sunday

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