Allrounder James Franklin is set to open the batting again, when New Zealand begin their Twenty20 World Cup campaign against Bangladesh on Friday.
The elegant left-hander was promoted up the order for Monday's warm-up clash with South Africa, as part of a makeshift Black Caps' line-up. Illness and injury meant they could only muster 10 players, plus bowling coach Damien Wright in the guise of substitute fielder, against a Proteas side who used 13 in that unofficial match.
But with Bangladesh likely to boast an attack dominated by spin bowlers, New Zealand coach Mike Hesson said yesterday that Franklin was likely to bat at the top of the order in game that's very-much for real.
"For the last month or so Franky's been practicing that, because we're probably going to be confronted by 12 overs of left-arm spin against Bangladesh so, obviously, to reel out a number of right-handers against that wouldn't be clever,'' Hesson said.
In fact, Hesson expects Bangladesh to fill as many as 16 of their 20 overs with spin, in a match he described as "critical'' to New Zealand's success at the tournament.
The Black Caps' own approach to bowling on a Pallekele Cricket Stadium pitch that's likely to do a bit when the second innings of the game takes place under lights, will be to field an array of medium pacers.
Kyle Mills and Jacob Oram should be among them, having overcome differing fitness problems. Mills has missed New Zealand's two warm-up matches here in Sri Lanka, in the aftermath of his unfortunate on-field collision with wicketkeeper Brendon McCullum during the team's one-run win over India a week ago, while Oram's had a couple of niggles.
But, having bowled usefully at Pallekele during the recent Sri Lankan Twenty20 league, Oram would play an integral part in the Black Caps' quest to secure a Super 8s berth on Friday, Hesson said. Pakistan are the other team in Group D and New Zealand meet them on Sunday, before Bangladesh play their neighbours on September 25.
Having lost both their warm-up games in Sri Lanka, it's not too easy to get a read on the Black Caps' Twenty20 form right now. They were badly underdone when the West Indies thrashed them in Florida two series' ago, while wet weather meant only one of their two games against India got played last week.
But the fact that his team won it, even if it was by just a solitary run, was cause for optimism Hesson said, regardless of what's happened since they got to Sri Lanka.
"That's all we've got to go on. That's when we played a really good side in Chennai, where sides don't go and win, so we certainly take confidence from that,'' said Hesson.
Whether Hesson has a full 15 to pick from for Friday remains to be seen. Ill players Tim Southee and Rob Nicol, who were left behind in Colombo when the team travelled up to Kandy yesterday, were set to rejoin their team-mates overnight.
Southee had been on drip, in an effort to re-hydrate him after stomach trouble, while Nicol had the same symptoms but not to the same degree.
Spinner Daniel Vettori also suffered a bout of gastro-enteritis, but Hesson said there was no smoking gun, as it were.
"It would be nice if there was. We talk about the odd buffet here or there, but there's a variety of options.
"We are pretty diligent in how we go about things but you can't control everything.''
Players eat almost exclusively at the team hotel on trips like these and the ICC have enlisted the kitchen staff at the teams' hotels to also cook at the warm-up and competition-match venues to minimise outbreaks of this kind of illness.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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