Black Caps throw open spin debate in Windies

MARK GEENTY
Last updated 05:00 07/06/2014
Shane Shillingford
Photosport
UNDER A CLOUD: Shane Shillingford in action for the West Indies against New Zealand.

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New Zealand management want clarification from match referee Chris Broad around the restrictions on controversial West Indies spinner Shane Shillingford in Monday's first test at Kingston.

Shillingford will play his first test since last December, when he was sidelined in Hamilton after his elbow extension was ruled to be above the permitted 15 degrees when bowling his standard off-break and variations against India the previous month.

In March, the International Cricket Council confirmed Shillingford's return to international cricket, having undergone "remedial work" on his action, but said he would be watched closely by match officials.

He is permitted to bowl his off-break and arm ball, but barred from using the doosra which turns the other way.

It's a puzzling ruling, and one which Hesson would like clarified.

"It's quite hard to see how they actually police that. It's all very well saying it, but do they call a batsman back if he bowls a doosra? It's going to be an interesting discussion with the match referee," Hesson said.

"Same with [Marlon] Samuels, he's not allowed to bowl a quicker ball so we'll certainly get some clarification on those two things."

But that remains a side issue to the eternal question over New Zealand's ability to combat spin on turning pitches away from home, where their record is poor. After an inconclusive warmup on a dodgy surface, their confidence against the slow men holds the key and pushes new batting coach Craig McMillan to the forefront.

That task eased slightly when the tricky Sunil Narine was ruled out of the series after opting for the Indian Premier League final over a team camp. Shillingford without a doosra is less imposing, although he caused some final-day wobbles with a quickfire 4-26 in the Dunedin draw in December.

"He'll get more bounce and turn over here whereas in New Zealand they tended to slide on a lot more. Shillingford seems to be their first-choice spinner, and [left-armer] Sulieman Benn is back in favour. None of our guys have faced a lot of him and, with his bounce and his height, he's going to ask some different questions," Hesson said.

The appearance of the Sabina Park pitch will help decide whether New Zealand play three frontline pacemen, with Neil Wagner getting the nod, or two specialist spinners, with Mark Craig joining Ish Sodhi.

Recent history favours the tweakers at Sabina, even if its most recent test in 2012 was dominated by the pacemen as West Indies beat New Zealand by five wickets.

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The hosts look imposing at home, with Chris Gayle eyeing his 100th test and impressive paceman Kemar Roach poised to return.

Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor will again be New Zealand's batting anchors while captain Brendon McCullum, who was scheduled to join his team-mates in Kingston yesterday, needs to hit the ground running fresh off a handy IPL season.

- The Dominion Post

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