By Niall Anderson in Cardiff
As the West Indies plundered the Black Caps bowlers to all corners of Bristol on their way to racking up 421 in their warm-up win yesterday, New Zealand cricket fans could have been excused for feeling envy.
Not because the West Indies are necessarily a better team than the Black Caps, but because they possess the game-changing element that is set to be so crucial at this Cricket World Cup – and one that New Zealand might be lacking.
While talk of a team scoring 500 during the tournament might be a tad hyperbolic, there's little doubt that runs will be in vogue in the United Kingdom, and the West Indies produced a perfect template of how to build a destructive innings, with 18 sixes coming from nine different players in an endless display of aggression.
From Chris Gayle and Evin Lewis opening the batting, all the way to Andre Russell and Carlos Brathwaite hitting out at eight and nine, the West Indies have a charismatic cast of characters that can take the game away from the opposition in mere overs.
That's not quite the case for the Black Caps. While they have several superb batsmen who can craft masterful knocks, when it comes to pure power, they lack the resources possessed by some of their leading rivals.
Of the 21 players to be listed at odds of $30 or lower to hit the most sixes at the World Cup, Martin Guptill is New Zealand's only representative. Comparatively, the West Indies have five, India and Australia possess four, while England and South Africa have three apiece.
In their response of 330 in the eventual 91-run loss yesterday, New Zealand only had three players clear the rope, and they were slightly unexpected contributors as Kane Williamson (two sixes), Tom Blundell (five) and Ish Sodhi (three) freed the arms.
There are, of course, other and more conventional ways to score runs – and that's even before getting to the importance of having bowlers who can restrict and dismiss the opposition dangermen – but Black Caps coach Gary Stead has long been stressing the importance of being able to produce big totals at the World Cup.
While his side showed the ability to do that against Sri Lanka and Bangladesh this summer, India proved a tougher nut to crack, with the hosts failing to pass 243 – and the question remains whether the Black Caps simply have the firepower to beat the best.
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Jimmy Neesham is the most potent hitter in the squad, but his time at the crease is often (perhaps unnecessarily) restricted, and for multiple reasons he hasn't had the chance to plunder over an extended run of games.
Colin de Grandhomme is capable of blistering cameos, but has never faced 50 balls in an ODI and is unproven overseas, Colin Munro can't buy a run in ODIs, and Mitchell Santner's power comes and goes.
That leaves the specialists, and while Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor's qualities go without saying, and Tom Latham and Henry Nicholls are strong contributors, their career strike rates all fall within the 82-85 range – solid indeed, but unlikely to be enough in these conditions.
The one man who could potentially change the Black Caps' dynamic is Guptill – who possesses both the power and the pedigree to allow the aforementioned quartet to build their innings, and then set up sparks to fly when Neesham or de Grandhomme reaches the crease.
If Guptill doesn't fire, and the Black Caps' opening partnership continues to stumble, then large totals – and big run chases – might be too tough a task.
And while picking through the West Indian display, Williamson acknowledged the challenges ahead for his batsmen and bowlers alike.
"[Bristol is] a small ground and the West Indies side has a huge amount of power so you combine those two and when they get going it can be a very challenging task.
"In some ways it's probably going to be a reflection of what we may see throughout this tournament where we're not 100 per cent sure the surfaces we're going to be on.
"We know we'll be expecting some high scoring affairs."