Kingston: Having lost three matches in a row to West Indies, New Zealand need a massive turnaround to prevent the hosts taking a 2-0 series lead when the second ODI gets underway at Sabina Park on Saturday. A nine-wicket win in the series opener at the same ground will be a confidence booster for Darren Sammy’s team, and extended the hosts’ dominance over New Zealand following the 2-0 Twenty20 win in Florida over the weekend.
The inclusion of Chris Gayle and Dwayne Smith has proved huge for West Indies with the top-order pair scoring heavily in the Twenty20s and then fashioning a 130-run stand on Thursday. Smith’s unbeaten 65 at a strike-rate of 84.41 was his second in three games since his return to the team after two years and he has been a big bonus. With Gayle continuing his IPL form and the all-round pair of Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard in the middle order, West Indies have a strong batting lineup.
The bowling department isn’t bad either. Andre Russell had a strong outing at Sabina Park, taking 4 for 45 including the top three batsmen to set West Indies on the road to victory. Russell will be accompanied by Sammy, Ravi Rampaul and Bravo with mystery spinner Sunil Narine - who claimed two wickets in the last encounter – in an attempt to keep New Zealand to a low total again.
Batting is the main concern for the New Zealanders. They have been failing consistently to stand up to the West Indies pace attack. The stand-in captain Kane Williamson has taken over the reins in absence of their regular skipper Ross Taylor who has suffered shoulder injury, and has overseen two crushing defeats in a row without contributing with the bat.
New Zealand have struggled to get starts, critically; the openers put on a mere three runs. If the visitors have any chance of stopping West Indies from taking a 2-0 lead, the top order has to come good.
On the bowling front, New Zealand have a well balanced attack with a couple of decent quick bowlers in Kyle Mills, Tim Southee and Doug Bracewell and a canny spinner in Nathan McCullum, but need to tighten their lines and lengths to prevent the hosts from storming off the blocks. Apart from Mills (5-1-7-1) none of the bowlers went for less than 5.28 with three conceding runs at more than six.
West Indies: 1 Lendl Simmons, 2 Chris Gayle, 3 Dwayne Smith, 4 Marlon Samuels, 5 Dwayne Bravo, 6 Kieron Pollard, 7 Denesh Ramdin (wk), 8 Darren Sammy (capt), 9 Andre Russell, 10 Ravi Rampaul, 11 Sunil Narine
New Zealand: 1 Rob Nicol, 2 Martin Guptill, 3 Kane Williamson (capt), 4 Dean Brownlie, 5 BJ Watling (wk), 6 Jacob Oram, 7 Andrew Ellis, 8 Nathan McCullum, 9 Kyle Mills, 10 Doug Bracewell, 11 Tarun Nethula