Ross Taylor wary of Windies firepower
On rankings, New Zealand would expect to canter past the West Indies in their opening Twenty20 international.
In just about every other category, captain Ross Taylor's side deserve to be rank outsiders to start their world T20 buildup on a winning note near Miami tomorrow.
Ranked fourth to the West Indies' ninth in the latest ICC T20 batting order, New Zealand have generally performed well in the shortest discipline. They've won 24 of their 50 T20 internationals compared with the West Indies' 14 of 36. And New Zealand have never lost to the West Indies in three T20 internationals, the first two of which were tied.
But as a form guide for the world T20, in Sri Lanka starting in mid-September, this match is not reliable.
New Zealand's best T20 player, Brendon McCullum, is resting; Daniel Vettori won't be back in the T20 frame until just before Sri Lanka and James Franklin was excused to play a full campaign for Essex in England.
As befits a T20 international in the United States, there's a hit and giggle element to it, with some intrigue over how the New Zealanders fare in the Florida heat after no pre-tour camp and three months since their last series against South Africa. The final T20 match involved the great choke, which led to a three-run defeat in Auckland.
New Zealand Cricket has done its best to pump up the "home" double header tomorrow and Monday, part of its alliance with cricket in the United States. A press release declared an exciting atmosphere was in prospect and the forecast crowd had risen from 10,000 earlier in the week to a nearly sold out 15,000.
Most interest, though, will be on how the pitch plays. It was woeful when New Zealand shared two T20 matches 1-1 with Sri Lanka two years ago, although assistant coach Trent Woodhill talked it up in the same NZC press release as a good surface, on evidence of the training pitches.
New Zealand intrigue will surround Taylor's form – he struggled in the Indian Premier League after suffering a broken arm; whether BJ Watling or young Tom Latham get the gloves in McCullum's absence; and if Tim Southee can prove he's still in New Zealand's top 11 with the white ball after his late season struggles. If the pitch is slow and low, as expected, left-armer Ronnie Hira will get the chance to impress after his world T20 selection chances were dealt a blow by Vettori's availability.
The West Indies are coming off a seven-wicket defeat to England, but have an imposing lineup with Chris Gayle, Dwayne Smith, Marlon Samuels and Kieron Pollard all adept at clearing the rope.
"I guess individuals can win games by themselves in T20 more so then ODIs or test matches," Taylor said.
"They are a dangerous side when it comes to that. They'll be a lot more familiar to these conditions than us and they have played a lot more recently, but I'm more worried about ourselves and how we execute."
New Zealand (from): Ross Taylor (c), Martin Guptill, Rob Nicol, Daniel Flynn, Kane Williamson, Dean Brownlie, Tom Latham, BJ Watling, Jacob Oram, Andrew Ellis, Nathan McCullum, Doug Bracewell, Kyle Mills, Tim Southee, Ronnie Hira.
West Indies (from): Darren Sammy (c), Dwayne Smith, Chris Gayle, Lendl Simmons, Marlon Samuels, Dwayne Bravo, Kieron Pollard, Denesh Ramdin, Ravi Rampul, Sunil Narine, Fidel Edwards, Samuel Badree, Johnson Charles.
The Dominion Post