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Mitchell McClenaghan remains on world record pace, with his captain saying not to change a thing as the New Zealand fast bowler eyes an emotional debut in his home province.
The left-armer plays his 16th one-day international against West Indies tomorrow, and his first at McLean Park after a rollicking series opener in Auckland. Defending a paltry 157, McClenaghan snared five West Indies wickets and got his team to the brink of an unlikely victory before Darren Sammy bludgeoned the tourists home by two wickets.
McClenaghan stalked off with figures of five for 58 off 9.3 overs - satisfied with his career-best ODI haul but gutted they'd got so close and probably would have won without Sammy's 43 off 27 balls.
"Obviously the days where you don't go for as many runs are the days that you want, but my role is to go out and take wickets and keep the other team under the pump," he said.
McClenaghan's career economy rate is high, 5.7 runs per over, but skipper Brendon McCullum won't be reining him in. It's the wickets column that matters more, with the Hastings-born Auckland quick having snared 40 at an outstanding average of 19 and having helped New Zealand to ODI series wins in South Africa and England.
Sri Lankan spinner Ajantha Mendis holds the world record of 19 ODIs to reach 50 wickets. McClenaghan is aware he needs 10 from his next three games to rewrite the books.
"That 50 wickets is not something I really thought about since coming back from Bangladesh but I started to hit a bit of form and get back into the role of taking wickets. It could potentially be just around the corner."
McCullum hailed his spearhead's role on a tricky Eden Park surface, and describes him as the ODI team's crucial point of difference. He'll be demanding more of the same on a flatter Napier pitch as New Zealand try to avoid a perilous 2-0 down in the five-match series.
"There's not too many bowlers around the country that can perform that hostile, aggressive role that he can," McCullum said.
"He's taken a lot of wickets for us and five for 58 is a hell of an effort, even though it was off nine overs. He searched for wickets plenty of times for us and the nature of doing so is you're going to cough up a few runs."
McClenaghan bounced back from a disappointing tour of Bangladesh and Sri Lanka where he was angry at himself for not doing enough pre-tour fitness work to counter the heat and humidity on his first visit to the subcontinent.
He expects Napier to be typically high scoring, and knows early wickets alongside senior paceman Kyle Mills will be crucial before the batsmen get set.
McClenaghan missed the England ODI at McLean Park last February due to injury, so this will be his first appearance on what was his home ground, before he made a career-defining move to Auckland.
His Melbourne-based parents, Dennis and Jill, watched the Auckland game and will be in Napier tomorrow.
"I'm pumped ... really excited to go and perform out there in front of family and friends."
The 27-year-old also has the Indian Premier League in the back of his mind. If he continues at this clip, particularly when India are touring next month, a contract could be on the cards.
"If I got the opportunity to go over there ... I'd just use it as a chance to train and play and watch the best in the world. I'd see it more as a learning opportunity than a money-making experience."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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