Cricket: Captains may be key in Queenstown

Daniel Vettori
Daniel Vettori
So often it has come down to a battle of the skippers on this tour.

The West Indies have been able to call on Chris Gayle, who, in full flight, is one of the most destructive opening batsmen in world cricket - as witnessed during the super over of the opening twenty/20 match when he plundered 25 runs from six Daniel Vettori deliveries.

The home side has looked to Vettori to put the brakes on and conjure wickets with his deceptive variations in pace and length.

His bowling, and a stunning opening partnership between Brendon McCullum and Jesse Ryder in the second twenty/20 match, helped New Zealand tie the twenty/20 series.

Today's opening one-dayer at the Queenstown Events Centre will probably be no different.

How Vettori bowls in the middle stages and whether Gayle gets away could determine the outcome of the first of the five games in the series.

Of course, McCullum might have something to say about that.

He certainly cannot be considered a role player, especially after his remarkable innings at the venue last New Year's Eve when he smashed 80 runs off just 28 balls to help New Zealand annihilate Bangladesh by 10 wickets.

Aside from Gayle, the tourists have a potent batting line-up which includes Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Ramnaresh Sarwan.

Sarwan scored a big century against Auckland in a warm-up match but has otherwise been missing in action.

Until the second twenty/20 that is, where he took up the challenge after Gayle was dismissed early and hit a rapid half century.

While Vettori is probably enjoying his personal battle with Gayle, the wily campaigner is cautious not to take his eye off the other threats in the side.

"He [Gayle] is another part of the equation but you still have to acknowledge that he is one of the best one-day players in the world and he has been so destructive for a long time now.

"We have to be careful not to put all our eggs in one basket [and concentrate on dismissing him] because we know they have some quality players in their line-up: Chanderpaul, Sarwan; and [Xavier] Marshall looks like a good player."

After being downwind of a Gayle-force six-ball batting blitz during the Boxing Day twenty/20 match, Vettori was looking forward to having 10 overs up his sleeve to work his magic.

"There is a little more scope to try things because batsmen aren't quite as aggressive in this format, as opposed to twenty/20 where they're looking to hit every ball.

"So you can build up some pressure with some consistency as opposed to chopping and changing every ball," he said.

New Zealand enjoys a good record in Queenstown, having won five of the six one-dayers at the venue.

Interestingly, the side batting second has always won.

"We enjoy coming down here. We enjoy playing on this wicket. It is probably one of the few grounds in New Zealand that has a bit of pace and bounce in the deck."

New Zealand will be looking to halt its slide down the ICC one-day ratings and recapture its mojo before the Chappell-Hadlee series next year.

And likewise the West Indies has plenty to play for.

A 5-0 whitewash to the tourists would enable them to climb one position above New Zealand into seventh place.

The nature of the pitch will probably mean Jeetan Patel will sit the match out, with Wellington all-rounder Grant Elliott and Otago batsman Neil Broom competing for a spot at No 7 in the order.

New Zealand v Windies
For the record

Played 46: New Zealand 18, West Indies 23, no result 5.
Highest total: New Zealand 324 for six, Napier, March 2006.
Lowest total: New Zealand 116, Port of Spain, April 1985.
High score: Brian Lara 146 not out, Port of Spain, March 1996.
Most wickets (innings): Scott Styris six for 25, Port of Spain, June 2002.

New Zealand
(from): Daniel Vettori (c), Brendon McCullum, Jesse Ryder, Jamie How, Ross Taylor, Daniel Flynn, Jacob Oram, Grant Elliott, Kyle Mills, Tim Southee, Mark Gillespie, Neil Broom, Jeetan Patel.

West Indies (from): Chris Gayle, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Xavier Marshall, Shawn Findlay, Kieron Pollard, Denesh Ramdin, Jerome Taylor, Daren Powell, Fidel Edwards, Nikita Miller, Lionel Baker, Sewnarine Chattergoon, Carlton Baugh, Brendan Nash.



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