Kitchen expected to debut for Black Caps

Otago batsman Anaru Kitchen flays another delivery during his innings of 143 not out in the Volts...
Otago batsman Anaru Kitchen flays a delivery . Photo: ODT
Expect bats to go off like the cannons in Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture on Friday at Nelson's Saxton Oval.

The West Indies and New Zealand meet in the first of three T20s as the series morphs into the shortest format.

Strike rate will trump average as the sides look to maximise their 120 balls and keep the scoreboard operators alert, preferably in denominations of four and six.

If New Zealand create a batting symphony, the onus will go on a relatively inexperienced middle order of Glenn Phillips, Tom Bruce and Anaru Kitchen.

The trio have 10 T20 international caps between them, with 33-year-old Kitchen in line to debut.

The Otago all-rounder has predominantly been picked for his batting. His form suggests selectors Mike Hesson and Gavin Larsen have identified something in his performances which can't be teased out through statistics alone.

Kitchen has 18 runs from three innings at a run a ball in this season's domestic T20 competition, following on from 171 runs at an average of 17.10 and strike rate of 127 in 2016-17.

However, a career strike rate of 123 from 81 T20 innings suggests consistent acceleration is a trait rather than a fad.

In the current Ford Trophy one-day competition, Kitchen has 100 runs from three innings at a strike rate of 102; last season he scored 291 runs at an average 48.50 and a strike rate of 122. That included 143 not out off 85 balls at No.3 to chase 289 for victory in 34.1 overs against Northern Districts at Dunedin.

"Since he moved to the middle order he's been a destructive player," Hesson said.

"He has always been talented, but he's certainly making better decisions as he's getting older.

"The role at No.5 or 6 in T20s is difficult. You get five or maybe 10 balls to make a difference. You have to have someone who can strike from ball one. Anaru's one of them."

Hesson has a wealth of data at his disposal when he cranks up a laptop famed for forensic detail. Kitchen's performance will intrigue, especially with Colin de Grandhomme on bereavement leave and Corey Anderson injured. He must seize this chance.

Similarly Phillips, who will take the gloves, and Bruce must make their presence felt.

Phillips has scored five and 11 in innings against South Africa and India respectively.

His ballistic hand speed remains a key weapon. He has 102 runs at a strike rate of 185 from three Burger King Super Smash appearances this season. One century, five half-centuries and a strike rate of 136 from 23 T20s overall suggest a Guy Fawke's type display is imminent at the next level.

Bruce is the most experienced of the trio with a strike rate of 132 from seven T20 international appearances. Domestically that extrapolates to 149 from 28 matches for Central Districts.

An angular stance enables him to extend his limbs, maximise his reach and clout the ball through a powerful arc. His strike rate rises like the Bitcoin share price when he gets established.

Tim Southee captains New Zealand for the first time in any format today.

He said it's a dangerous batting line-up.

"It's full of guys who like to play their shots.

"We're not as experienced as the one-day or test sides, so it's exciting to see what some of these guys bring.

"Hopefully they'll express themselves the same way they do in domestic cricket."

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