Black Caps under the microscope

Last updated 11:39 31/03/2014

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New Zealand's World Twenty20 and ODI Cricket World Cup credentials will be up for scrutiny in the early hours of tomorrow.

It's all very well to talk a good game – and play one in patches – but it's winning when everything's on the line that sorts the champions from wannabes.

If New Zealand can beat Sri Lanka early tomorrow, they won't just qualify for the World Twenty20 semifinal, but carve out a name for themselves as a genuine contender to win next year's ODI World Cup.

They have the ability, and this game will help demonstrate if they have the brains and bottle to match.

"You just need to enjoy it," New Zealand opening batsman Kane Williamson said.

"It's one of those occasions that, if you let go and express yourself, you can play really well. If you tighten up, it can be harder than it needs to be, in terms of putting pressure on yourself.

"So if you can relax and play and let your game come out of its shell, that'll go a long way to producing that complete performance."

That's eluded New Zealand so far.

Good overs have been undone by the last ball going for six or good partnerships broken by a poor shot.

Williamson was as guilty of that as anyone in the team's last start. They still beat the Netherlands by six wickets, but shouldn't have been chasing as many as 152, nor have to win four wickets down.

He said his bowling of one over for 17 runs was indicative of the way two or three poor overs were hurting the side, while he nicked out for 29 in New Zealand's innings trying to play a nothing shot to third man.

His dismissal, and the similarly soft departures of Martin Guptill and Ross Taylor, meant things moved into a holding pattern too often.

"Martin and I want to keep that momentum at the top, if not improve that momentum, and our rotation of the strike etcetera, so boys can come in when wickets are lost and maintain that momentum," Williamson said.

"If you're ahead of the game and you push that partnership a little bit further, guys can come out with that real positive intent, as opposed to starting again with another bloke."

The other aspect of succeeding with the bat tomorrow morning, he said, was how everyone played stand-in Sri Lankan captain Lasith Malinga.

"Malinga's a huge threat, as he's shown pretty much every game he plays," Williamson said.

"Teams struggle to get in top of him, so limiting his damage but also trying to rotate his strike is key.

"Therefore one or two players will need to attack the other [Sri Lankan] guys that come on [to bowl] in order to compensate."

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The wild cards are the dew and the toss. Both teams will want to bowl first, although New Zealand have been experimenting with a wet ball in practice.

"Sometimes yorkers are tough to bowl with a wet ball, because you might drag them down or they might slip into full tosses, so there have to be different plans around that," Williamson said.

It will be interesting to see if any changes are made to the team that beat the Netherlands. Jimmy Neesham justified his inclusion ahead of Colin Munro, while Trent Boult also impressed in taking one for 25.

Tim Southee, though, is a senior member of the side and it wouldn't be a shock to see him slip back in ahead of Boult.

- Stuff

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