Lie back and think of England isn’t a phrase usually associated with cricket.
But as the Black Caps wend their way to a training camp in Dubai today, it’ll be England that occupies the mind of coach Mike Hesson.
New Zealand are grouped with England, South Africa, Sri Lanka and a still-to-qualify associate nation – which is likely to be Ireland – for this month’s World Twenty20 tournament in Bangladesh.
The top two teams will progress to the semifinals which, given the progress during the domestic summer, would seem a potential destination for New Zealand. Hesson, though, can only think of England.
‘‘The way we’ve performed over the last period of time is we don’t get too far ahead of ourselves. The England game’s a big focus for us, we’ll see how we go with that,’’ Hesson said yesterday.
New Zealand meet England in the early hours of March 23 (NZ time) in Chittagong and it’ll be that opening match which Hesson believes will determine how the team fares.
‘‘That first game against England is a big one for us. We’ve got to win three out of four [to make the semifinals] and if we win that first one it’s obviously far easier than not. A lot of preparation will go into that,’’ he said.
He rated Sri Lanka as probably the form team in the group and best equipped to handle the conditions in Bangladesh. England have the advantage of coming from a series played in the West Indies, where the pitches are not dissimilar to what they’ll confront in Chittagong, with New Zealand and South Africa coming in fairly cold.
Hence the pre-tournament training camp, where the Black Caps will also have practice matches against English counties Worcestershire and Derbyshire. It’ll be there that Hesson also settles on his XI.
Martin Guptill and Kane Williamson will be given first crack at opening the batting and then it’ll be a case of working how to configure the bowling attack.
‘‘[We’ll need] at least two spinners, but probably three, depending on conditions. You want at least three guys that can do a job with spin, so you’ve got the option of bowling at least half your overs with spin.’’
Nathan McCullum picks himself, Williamson is fairly reliable and Hesson also made positive mention of Anton Devcich as a top-order batting and spin bowling option. Roneel Hira is the other spinner in the party.
Batting-wise, in Brendon McCullum, Corey Anderson, Luke Ronchi and Jimmy Neesham, New Zealand have quality hitters that have done big damage in 50-over cricket. Then there’s the fine all-round game of Ross Taylor, plus Colin Munro presumably to be fitted in somewhere.
The only issue is that the steady start and frantic finish template that has served the team so well in one-day matches isn’t as applicable in an innings of only 20 overs. It’s fine having a handful of batsmen that can hurt the opposition at the death, but they’re wasted if they don’t get a decent hit.
‘‘We’ve got targets that we need to achieve in our first six overs, so we need to pick people who we think are able to do that. If they’re able to do that, that enables us to build through the middle and then use our power through the latter middle and the end,’’ Hesson said.
‘‘But obviously the first six overs with the bat are pretty critical.’’
Belief in this team, both from within and outside, could scarcely be higher. But New Zealand have enjoyed little success at this tournament and beat only Bangladesh in the most recent edition in 2012.
Hesson believes the 2012 results weren’t a fair reflection of the cricket his team played, but he’s also not making any bold predictions about what can be achieved this time.
‘‘As I said, we don’t get too far ahead of ourselves and start thinking about trying to win tournaments without even making it past the first round, so we’ll just deal with what’s in front of us and if we do that well we’ll see what happens next.’’
Which batting pair would be best at opening in ODIs for the Black Caps?