Mitch McClenaghan no charmer, ask Sharma

MARK GEENTY
Last updated 05:00 21/01/2014

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In case India's opener Rohit Sharma didn't quite get Mitchell McClenaghan's drift at full volume on Sunday night, the New Zealand fast bowler can explain.

"These guys are good players but at no point are we going to back away from a fight.

"We're not going to be nice to them, we're going to get in their face and let them know that we're here and we're going to put our mark on the buildup to the World Cup," he said, after New Zealand's 24-run win in the ODI series opener in Napier.

McClenaghan's no stranger to lighting a fuse on the field but he's backed it with actions.

The big left-armer, playing his first ODI in his home province, was the poster boy for New Zealand's aggressive bowling plan against India, and singled out Sharma early.

A nose-to-nose confrontation and some verbals was soon followed by Sharma hooking straight to Tim Southee, one of four Indian top-six batsmen to perish to an attempted hook or pull shot.

Captain MS Dhoni in full flight was also hurried up by McClenaghan (4-68) amid a desperate final spell, and well caught by a diving Luke Ronchi, before the left-armer removed a dominant Virat Kohli to a low full toss to signal game over.

The pace of the usually sluggish Hamilton pitch, venue for tomorrow's second ODI, will need to be assessed but McClenaghan is unlikely to shy away from a winning formula.

"When they [India] go to Aussie they get bombed. It's something we've got with our attack, we've got guys who can bowl good bouncers.

"We know there's a few of their guys who like to hook compulsively," McClenaghan said.

"It's about picking and choosing the times that we use it and the grounds we use it on because they all have different dimensions. We'll just have to be really smart about the lines we use it on."

Dhoni backed his batsmen to continue using the pull/hook shot to New Zealand's short-pitched offerings, despite he, Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and Suresh Raina all being dismissed to it.

"In the ODIs we play outside India it's still important to try and master it.

"With the two bouncers allowed you can't just leave them all," he said.

The touring captain was upbeat about his side's tour-opening performance, without a warmup fixture, despite conceding 292-7 then being dismissed for 268.

India were likely winners as long as Dhoni and Kohli (123 off 111) were at the crease, but he admitted concern over the troublesome four and five slots where Ajinkya Rahane and Raina missed out cheaply.

"We have not got consistent runs from them."

McClenaghan, meanwhile, repaid his captain's faith once again in the wickets column, his sixth four-wicket bag in 19 ODIs. McClenaghan has 47 career wickets at 19.78. He can't beat Sri Lankan spinner Ajantha Mendis, who took a record 19 ODIs to reach 50 wickets, but second place should be his in the ‘fastest to 50' race.

India's Ajit Agarkar is second with 23 matches, while Shane Bond holds the New Zealand record at 27 matches.

The hosts have detailed plans for each Indian batsman, but Kohli (who averages 52 from 126 ODIs, including 18 centuries) remains the thorn in their side. Somehow remove him early, and momentum will swing New Zealand's way in a hurry.

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McClenaghan also hoped some consistent showings against the world champions could send a message to other powerful cricketing nations.

"It's a huge series against one of the best sides in the world. Leading into a World Cup in our back yard we want to have consistency.

"This is our best team that we can put out on the park. Hopefully we can let everyone know around the world that in our own back yard on our grounds and our decks we're not to be taken lightly come 2015."

AT A GLANCE

Fewest ODIs to reach 50 wickets: 19 – Ajantha Mendis (Sri Lanka) 23 – Ajit Agarkar (India) 24 – Dennis Lillee (Australia) 25 – Shane Warne (Australia) 26 – Len Pascoe (Australia), Patrick Patterson (West Indies), Curtly Ambrose (West Indies) 27 – Waqar Younis (Pakistan), Shane Bond (NZ), Lonwabo Tsotsobe (South Africa), Clint McKay (Australia) * Mitchell McClenaghan has 47 wickets from 19 ODIs

- The Dominion Post

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