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Cricket: NZ look to climb higher

Himalayan setting perfect spot to build on promising start with rare T20 win over Australia.
Corey Anderson made more runs against India than the rest of the top order combined. Photo / AP
Corey Anderson made more runs against India than the rest of the top order combined. Photo / AP

Bad weather is forecast, and long-sleeved sweaters should be de rigueur by the mid-afternoon start as New Zealand prepare to play Australia in Dharamsala, cricket's equivalent of a fairytale kingdom at the World T20.

The teams face what could be four seasons in one day.

The enclave sits in the Himalayas' shadow and doubles as home to the Dalai Lama. He is a regular attendee at Kings XI Punjab Indian Premier League matches at the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association.

Adding to the mystique is the possibility two Antipodean rivals will gamble with three-prong spin attacks in the first time they have met in six editions of this tournament.

New Zealand rolled out Nathan McCullum, Ish Sodhi and Mitchell Santner against India at Nagpur with spectacular results; India were dismissed for 79, their second lowest T20 total.

The Black Caps' chutzpah means they have the jump on other sides. Australia, who have never won the World T20, have everything to prove ahead of their first game.

Talk has speculated on whether they opt for a spin trio of Adam Zampa, Ashton Agar and Glenn Maxwell.

Ground curator Sunil Chauhan told Cricket Australia the pitch would not spin as much as the Nagpur wicket, and expected deliveries to go through relatively fast at the rarefied 1457m altitude. That fact could return Trent Boult, Tim Southee and Mitchell McClenaghan to the selection frame alongside Adam Milne. Who to drop from McCullum, Santner and Sodhi would be a formidable decision.

Conversely, New Zealand's best chance of winning might weigh more towards bolstering their batting form. Successfully defending 126 for seven or less, as they did against India, seems unlikely. The Black Caps had done it only once before Wednesday in 87 completed T20Is.

The onus of responsibility sits with captain Kane Williamson, Martin Guptill, Colin Munro, Corey Anderson and Ross Taylor. Anderson top-scored for New Zealand in Nagpur with 34 from 42 balls. The remaining quartet made 31 runs from 38 balls.

However, the top four made outstanding T20 contributions over the home summer when New Zealand lost one of five matches against Pakistan and Sri Lanka (versus Pakistan at Eden Park).

On the two occasions they batted first, they posted 182 for four against Sri Lanka at Mt Maunganui and 196 for five against Pakistan in Wellington.

Williamson and Guptill also secured the world-record highest partnership - an unbeaten 171 - against Pakistan at Hamilton, while Munro and Anderson had two of the highest T20 international strike rates pre-tournament. Munro was third with 159 and Anderson 14th with 145 for those facing more than 150 balls.

The other benefit is the core of the New Zealand squad have beaten Australia recently in the limited overs format, after the 2-1 Chappell-Hadlee Trophy triumph.

That included defending 246 when the hosts' lower order crumbled in Hamilton. Pressure on the Australian batsmen saw them implode for 191.

Again, the form of Guptill was pivotal in the series. He made 180 runs at an average of 60, which included two half centuries and a strike rate of 99.

Australia's batting plan has seen them opt for heavier blades to provide a better chance of clearing the boundary. Shane Watson, Steve Smith and James Faulkner are among those to ask their manufacturers to add an extra ounce or two of power.

NZ v Australia

World T20, Dharamsala, from 10.30pm tonight NZT
New Zealand:
(from) Kane Williamson (c), Martin Guptill, Colin Munro, Corey Anderson, Ross Taylor, Henry Nicholls, Grant Elliott, Luke Ronchi, Mitchell Santner, Nathan McCullum, Ish Sodhi, Tim Southee, Adam Milne, Mitch McClenaghan, Trent Boult.
Australia: (from) Steven Smith (c), David Warner, Ashton Agar, Nathan Coulter-Nile, James Faulkner, Aaron Finch, John Hastings, Josh Hazlewood, Usman Khawaja, Mitchell Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Peter Nevill, Andrew Tye, Shane Watson, Adam Zampa.

- NZ Herald

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