Under-strength New Zealand still favourites

Todd Astle appeals for a wicket AFP

By Andrew Fidel Fernando

Todd Astle appeals for a wicket AFP

Big Picture

If West Indies have become nervous that this could turn out to be a difficult series, it is because New Zealand tend to overpower visiting ODI sides. Ask Australia, who have lost the two most recent iterations of the Chappell-Hadlee series. Ask Bangladesh, who were whitewashed roughly a year ago. Or Pakistan and Sri Lanka, who have been thumped twice each over the last four summers. South Africa were the only exception – winning 3-2 earlier this year thanks to the sharp work of Kagiso Rabada and Imran Tahir.

New Zealand have won eight of their last nine bilateral series at home, with a wide cast of performers. On Wednesday it was Doug Bracewell and Todd Astle who propelled the team to victory. At other times, Matt Henry, or Tom Latham, or Martin Guptill have played match-winning hands, while the likes of Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor and Trent Boult provide the consistent, engine-room performances. There is no real formula – just finely crafted plans and familiarity with home conditions. New Zealand may lose the occasional match, but they never look rattled.

West Indies’ plight is further complicated by their inexperience. Of the XI from Whangarei, only Jason Holder and Chris Gayle have played more than 30 ODIs. And Gayle – the man most likely to blow New Zealand away – has been unwell and is in danger of missing this match. If there is some hope for West Indies, it is that the hosts will also have to do without two of their senior players – Williamson and Tim Southee have been rested for the remainder of this series.


In the spotlight

It has been a long apprenticeship, but there is evidence in the second half of 2017, that Tom Latham is beginning to prosper as an ODI batsman. In his last seven trips to the crease, he has hit two hundreds – both match-winning efforts – and three fifties. Latham’s challenge now is to maintain that form as he takes over as captain in Williamson’s stead. Since he also keeps wicket in the ODI team, the next few days shape as a test of his maturity.

At times in the Test series, Shannon Gabriel was West Indies’ most penetrative bowler, finding success with his straight balls on a good length that trapped batsmen in front of the stumps. The attack leader for the ODIs as well now, he was underwhelming in Whangarei, going wicketless and giving away 57 runs. With Martin Guptill (injured) and Williamson both absent, West Indies have an opportunity to expose a weakened top order. If he can find rhythm, Gabriel is their likeliest bet to make those telling early breakthroughs.

Team news

Matt Henry is likely to replace Tim Southee in the XI, while Neil Broom may step in for Williamson.

New Zealand (probable): 1 George Worker, 2 Colin Munro, 3 Neil Broom, 4 Ross Taylor, 5 Tom Latham (capt & wk), 6 Henry Nicholls, 7 Todd Astle, 8 Doug Bracewell, 9 Lockie Ferguson, 10 Matt Henry, 11 Trent Boult.

A call on Gayle’s availability will be made on the morning of the match. If he cannot play, it is possible that Kyle Hope – brother of Shai – enters the XI. Also to be assessed ahead of the game is seamer Kesrick Williams, who has sustained a hamstring complaint. If he can’t play, left-armer Sheldon Cottrell is the likely replacement.

West Indies (probable): 1 Chris Gayle, 2 Evin Lewis, 3 Shai Hope (wk), 4 Shimron Hetmyer, 5 Jason Mohammed, 6 Jason Holder (capt.), 7 Rovman Powell, 8 Ashley Nurse, 9 Ronsford Beaton, 10 Kesrick Williams/ Sheldon Cottrell , 11 Shannon Gabriel. (ESPNcricinfo)




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