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West Indies chase unassailable lead
The rain which forced the second one-dayer between the West Indies and New Zealand to be washed out at Napier has effectively consigned the series to a four-match contest. As a result, a win for West Indies in today’s third match will give them an unassailable 2-0 lead, so the pressure increases on New Zealand to win the next three games to seal the series. New Zealand may not have made rapid strides as a Test side in 2013 but, as a one-day unit, surprised the likes of South Africa and England in their own backyard. They were comfortable in conditions replicating home, like the two previously stated countries, but fell woefully short in Bangladesh. After dominating the Tests against West Indies, they took their eye off the ball at Eden Park. Though their bowlers made West Indies huff and puff, their batsmen know they can’t get complacent.
West Indies endured a woeful 2013 in comparison, having won only nine ODIs out of 24, losing 13. The jury’s still out on the split-captaincy policy with Dwayne Bravo not delivering the results expected, even at home. Their opening bowlers finally hit their straps at Eden Park but the batsmen have continued to blow hot and cold. They are without Chris Gayle, Marlon Samuels and Darren Bravo (who flew back home for personal reasons), which makes their job harder. It might also leave them depending more on their bowling attack to win them matches. Their batsmen will hope for more batting friendly conditions in Queenstown, preferably a pitch as flat as the airport runway at one end of the ground, to get some confidence back. A good start in probably the most picturesque holiday destination in the country is not a bad way to usher in the new year. West Indies will have one forced change, with Darren Bravo returning home. Kirk Edwards, who was in fine form with the A side in India, could get an opportunity.
Kieran Powell scored two half-centuries in the ODI series in India, but he hasn’t carried his form into New Zealand. His Test series was nothing short of a disappointment, with a highest score of 36. Starting out as a Test opener, Gayle’s absence has given him an opportunity in the shorter formats too. He failed in Auckland, scoring 4. The next three games will be a chance for Powell to make a bid to retain his place even when West Indies return to a full strength line-up. It has been a modest start for Luke Ronchi in his second coming as an international cricketer, this time for New Zealand. He is yet to score a fifty and averages under 16 in 11 games. With Brendon McCullum not keeping wicket, Ronchi’s main competitor in one-dayers is BJ Watling. Ronchi had a chance to play a rescue-effort type knock after New Zealand were wobbling at 57 for 5 at Eden Park but failed, falling for 7. Ronchi, however, isn’t worrying yet about retaining his place in the World Cup squad next year. “I haven’t played enough international cricket to think if I look a year in advance where I could be,” Ronchi was quoted in New Zealand Herald. “I want to make the most of every opportunity and if I think too far ahead it’s all going to go horrendously wrong.”
Tim Southee is back in the squad after recovering from a toe surgery, and though the coach Mike Hesson initially marked him to return for the fourth ODI in Nelson, he didn’t rule out a comeback for Queenstown. Hesson was impressed with Southee’s progress at the nets, leaving the door open for selection. Should Southee return, Adam Milne might have to wait longer for his first appearance in an ODI on home soil, having been denied by the weather in Napier. It is interesting to note that rain had the final say in the last two games in Queenstown, one of which was a New Zealand-West Indies clash. Of the six completed games at the venue, New Zealand won five.
TEAMS: New Zealand (probable) Martin Guptill, Jesse Ryder, Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor, Brendon McCullum (capt), Corey Anderson, Luke Ronchi, (wk), James Neesham/Tim Southee/Adam Milne, Nathan McCullum, Mitchell McClenaghan, Kyle Mills
West Indies (probable) Johnson Charles, Kieran Powell, Kirk Edwards, Lendl Simmons, Dwayne Bravo (capt), Denesh Ramdin (wk), Narsingh Deonarine, Darren Sammy, Sunil Narine, Jason Holder Ravi Rampaul
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