Daniel Vettori believes New Zealand's chances of qualifying for the Twenty20 World Cup semifinals depend on the outcome of the first 10 balls they bowl at Chris Gayle.
The Black Caps meet the Windies in their final Super Eights match tonight, where nothing less than a win will keep them in the tournament.
If they do that, then they have to sit and wait and hope that Sri Lanka can beat England in the second match of tonight's double-header at the Pallekele International Cricket Stadium.
If England win, New Zealand go home regardless of how well they might be able to beat the West Indies in the early game.
And if they are to have any chance of doing that, then they must get Gayle early. Vettori captained the blockbusting Jamaican in this year's IPL competition and knows his game well.
“I've obviously played with him quite a lot at Bangalore and I couldn't say there's any definitive weakness. He's got an all-round game and he's actually a patient T20 batter, if that makes sense," Vettori said.
“He allows himself to get in so I think it's those first six to 10 balls . . . if you can look to dismiss him then, while he's trying to build his innings and get his eye in, then that's a real chance to take his wicket. Once you take his wicket, I think it affects the whole complexion of the game and the way that they view it. They really feed off him, he takes a lot of pressure off other batsmen."
Gayle made just two in the Windies' nine-wicket loss to Sri Lanka yesterday. Without a big contribution from him, the team mustered only 129 runs.
“I couldn't exactly say how [we are] going to get him out, but it's so imperative that we do, to give ourselves a chance of winning," Vettori said.
Vettori believes he and offspinner Nathan McCullum might be the best bet to do that, along with Tim Southee. But Southee will need to get his head and his action right before he troubles anybody.
A consistently good death bowler, he hasn't been nearly as effective up front. He bowled two one-over spells in yesterday's six-wicket loss to England, going for 16 runs on each occasion.
Vettori and Southee have spoken about that and finding a balance between the fast bowler's desire to hit the top of off-stump early and the reality that he's probably at his best when bowling yorkers.
Vettori's role in planning for games varies. His knowledge of Gayle means he's heavily involved in the buildup to this match, but less so at other times.
He said he was there if captain Ross Taylor needed advice. But being a sounding board, rather than pushing ideas on Taylor, was the way he preferred to do it.
Planning-wise, the Black Caps have tended to be neither one thing nor the other on this trip.
Too cute in some of their pre-conceived ideas, like the one that Vettori plays spin well and needed to bat at four against Pakistan in pool play. At other times, they've been slow to react or thrown people the ball long after the horse had bolted.
Vettori was New Zealand's most dangerous and economical bowler against England, but didn't bowl until the 18th over of their chase for 149. The game was well gone by then.
And yet, despite only recording one win in four starts, and doing some dim things along the way, the Black Caps might yet make another World Cup semifinal, though you could hardly say they deserved it.
“If you look at the nature of a tie, we played really well in that game [against Sri Lanka] and to lose in a one-off over, then that can go anyone's way," countered Vettori.
“We probably didn't play as well as we wanted against England but to go through, we'd have to beat the West Indies and they would, arguably, be one of the favourite teams. So, you could easily put a case forward that we could justify going through."
- © Fairfax NZ News
Will the Black Caps win the second test at Headlingley?