Bats set to rule on flat Napier second ODI wicket
As a form guide for today's second one-day international against West Indies, New Zealand's cricketers believe the Eden Park wicket-fest is best left alone.
A typically flat, brown McLean Park pitch welcomed both sides yesterday and had the bowlers furrowing their brows; a far cry from the swing and seam of Auckland where 313 runs were scraped together for the loss of 18 wickets.
"I've been looking for assistance from this pitch for 12 years and I'm struggling to find it. It's a pretty decent batting track here and it's usually a really good game," New Zealand's senior paceman Kyle Mills said.
Mills said the two-paced Auckland surface where the ball swung until late in each innings was a welcome exception from a bowlers' viewpoint, but batsmen could easily scrub it from their memories as the Napier sun warmed them.
West Indies arrive 1-0 up in the five-match series after Darren Sammy belted them home by two wickets with an unbeaten 43 off 27 balls, against an aggressive Mitchell McClenaghan (5-58) who raced to 40 wickets from 15 ODIs.
The Hastings native plays his first ODI on his former home ground, which looked its usual batter-friendly self and should offer pace and carry but little sideways movement. The short side boundaries, which had some West Indies bowlers giggling nervously, offer batsmen the chance to loosen the shackles and provide the quicks with a deterrent against short or wide offerings.
New Zealand's selection dilemma is whether to introduce 21-year-old fast bowler Adam Milne, who has five expensive ODIs to his name but none in New Zealand.
The Central Districts youngster gets dangerous late inswing when on song and is probably the quickest going around in New Zealand. After he was summoned in the absence of Tim Southee (toe) it would make sense to give him a chance ahead of Southee's likely return in Queenstown on Wednesday. Mills was excited about the potential firepower of Milne and McClenaghan.
"Adam has certainly got a bit of pace about him and it's a home ground for him. Usually there's a bit of carry in this wicket and I'm sure he'll be a daunting task no matter who he bowls against," Mills said.
Allrounder James Neesham appears the most likely to miss out if Milne gets a run, given the depth of New Zealand's batting down to the in-form Nathan McCullum at nine.
The coin toss will be important, not only because of recent statistics clearly favouring the side batting second, but also for the forecast of showers offering potential for a Duckworth-Lewis adjusted target.
Taking out New Zealand's 202-run win over an outclassed Zimbabwe in February 2012, the past four ODIs in Napier were won by the chasing team, against an average first innings total of 259. New Zealand lost the last three of those, against Pakistan, South Africa and England.
"We've had a pretty successful unit in the past chasing scores down because we've got the batsmen who can really take the game away from the opposition," Mills said.
New Zealand had targeted Auckland as vital to set the tone and also keep the tourists down after the 2-0 test series defeat. Instead captain Dwayne Bravo's side arrived with a spring in their legs, rejuvenated after their pace attack reduced the hosts' powerful batting lineup to rubble.
"It was exactly what we wanted, the momentum going into the next few games. It wasn't the best test series, the captaincy has changed and the mood has changed and we're in better spirits," said towering fast bowler Jason Holder.
News broke yesterday of batsman Darren Bravo, the captain's half-brother, having remained in Auckland then returned home to Trinidad for personal reasons. No further explanation was given, and no replacement had been summoned.
The Dunedin test double-centurion was ruled out of the Hamilton test after being struck on the arm in the nets by a delivery from Sammy, the test skipper. It is understood all was not well between the pair, but whether that contributed to Bravo's departure is unknown. Kirk Edwards will likely come into the top order.
Sunday Star Times