Dominant Black Caps still have much to ponder

MARK GEENTY
Last updated 05:00 14/06/2014
Mike hesson
KIRK HARGREAVES/Fairfax NZ
CHOICES TO MAKE: Black Caps coach Mike Hesson.

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Strangely for a side coming off a dominant victory, selection dilemmas will occupy New Zealand coach Mike Hesson as the team jets into Trinidad today.

Whether opener Peter Fulton retains his place, whether all-rounder Corey Anderson can fit in and whether paceman Neil Wagner plays at the expense of a spinner are all pertinent questions for the tourists heading into Tuesday's second test against West Indies. The answer to all three is potentially ‘no'.

The Black Caps first look at the Queen's Park Oval pitch tomorrow, and their training session, will offer some clarity.

Kingston's Sabina Park was heartbreaking for the quicks and heartening for the spinners as New Zealand dominated throughout to win by 186 runs, but Hesson isn't sure they'll get more of the same.

"I've heard contrasting views; some have said it's going to be a dustbowl and others have said they're going to leave plenty of grass on it," Hesson said.

"I'd expect something similar [to Kingston] but with [Kemar] Roach and [Jerome] Taylor they've got a couple of very good seamers so I thought they would have left a bit more life in it. For this test they might see that as a different way to attack us."

Like most Caribbean pitches, Port-of-Spain has favoured spin. In the most recent domestic match there in April, legspinner Imran Khan bagged nine wickets.

If the test pitch presented with more grass and looked likely to offer pace, Wagner would be strongly considered. Given off-spinner Mark Craig's man of the match eight-wicket haul on debut and the presence of four left-handers in the West Indies top six, leg-spinner Ish Sodhi would be more likely to sit out.

"With left-handers [Craig] is going to be our trump card. Ish didn't bowl as well as he would have liked in the first innings but he bowled superbly in the second.

"They complemented each other really well and that's what you need to win tests away from home."

There is sure to be debate around Fulton's spot. Hesson remained loyal during New Zealand's excellent trot of four wins from their last five tests, but one run and a dropped slips catch summed up Fulton's state of mind as he made it 10 successive innings without topping 15.

Hesson wouldn't be drawn on whether Fulton would get one more chance or Hamish Rutherford, another battling a form slump, would get a chance to partner the in-form Tom Latham.

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"Sure, Peter didn't have his best test match but both he and Hamish are working hard behind the scenes to turn it around.

Neesham's debut century, which made it two tons from his first three test innings, makes him near impossible to drop. Unless Anderson was a shock promotion to open, there seems no spot for the side's former No 1 all-rounder.

"They're competing for the same place and that's a healthy position for us to be in

"You like to reward performance but we also look at our best side to win the next test match."

Hesson's biggest satisfaction came from their plan falling into place; to bat first, score 450-plus and dominate throughout, as well as having a number of key contributors; Latham, Kane Williamson, Neesham, BJ Watling, Craig and Tim Southee among them.

- The Dominion Post

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