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Cricket: McClenaghan faces transition

Black Caps bowler Mitchell McClenaghan. File photo / Alan Gibson
Black Caps bowler Mitchell McClenaghan. File photo / Alan Gibson

Mitchell McClenaghan faces a transition.

As an established part of New Zealand's limited overs bowling set-up for three years, he has morphed from new ball bowler to first or second change.

The 29-year-old is in the frame for the World T20 in March but, if past experience is a guide, New Zealand will open with a spinner such as Mitchell Santner or Nathan McCullum to take early pace off the ball.

Expect New Zealand to play at least two specialist spinners each game. That means they'll take three in the 15-man squad, and a likely four pace bowlers. Presuming Trent Boult and Tim Southee are selected as front-liners, McClenaghan could contest the other two spots with Adam Milne and Matt Henry. Selectors Mike Hesson and Gavin Larsen may be forced to make a tough compromise.

Captain Brendon McCullum initially unleashed McClenaghan as a Wild Thing, an uber-aggressor who stunned opposition with pace in the 140km/h bracket. Few had answers and McClena-ghan rocketed to 50 ODI wickets in 23 matches, the second-equal fastest in the world.

Runs were happily conceded in exchange for early wickets.

Video analysis can be a batsman's friend and, as McClenaghan lost some pace, he worked more on strategic elements such as slower balls to maintain his influence. He now has 82 ODI wickets in 47 matches. Since he reached 50 wickets, he strikes every 28 balls rather than 24.

However, in T20s his stocks have stayed steady with a strike rate of 19, economy rate of 7.77 and average of 25.23. Those figures have been consistent for the past two years.

His influence has also been noted at a franchise level with contracts at the Indian Premier League's Mumbai Indians and English county Middlesex this year.

"[In recent times] I've been trying different forms of attack," McClenaghan said. "That includes slowing balls down to get batsmen to mistime because, as a rule, taking wickets is the easiest way to slow runs.

Hesson endorsed his left-armer. "As a T20 bowler, Mitch remains an experienced, shrewd operator.

"[The selection will revolve around] having a balance in the team. It's not a matter of picking your four best quicks. Some can open, while some are best bowling in the middle or at the death."

Elsewhere, Hesson confirmed the injured McCullum could play the final ODI against Pakistan on January 31. Southee was expected to be ready for the first test against Australia in Wellington, starting February 12.

- NZ Herald

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