Struggling West Indies seek year-end high


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A month after arriving in New Zealand, West Indies are still in search of a win on the tour. They were blanked 2-0 in the Tests and have already conceded the ODIs 2-0 with a game to go. These performances are indicative of what has largely been a forgettable 2017 for the team. West Indies have lost 15 out of the 21 ODIs they’ve played this year, failed to qualify for the Champions Trophy in England – a contest between the eight top ranked teams in the world – and they also lost out on a direct entry into the 2019 World Cup.

That leaves West Indies to go through the qualifying tournament in March next year, where they will compete with nine other teams for the last two available spots for the next World Cup in England. Given the highly competitive nature of that tournament, the sooner West Indies can identify and settle into a combination that will take them into the tournament and ahead, the better.

Poor shot selection, repetitive errors and recklessness plagued West Indies in the second ODI, which they lost by 204 runs after crumbling to 121 all out in a chase of 326. It urged their coach Stuart Law to impel the batsmen to use better discretion. With the kind of firepower that West Indies boast, some degree of application from the batsmen could help them challenge New Zealand for the first time on the tour.

New Zealand continue to be without the rested duo of Tim Southee and Kane Williamson, but have enough strength at the bench to make up for their absence. This hasn’t been New Zealand’s most dominant year, with 10 wins and eight defeats, but they are still a formidable ODI side at home. Barring a 2-3 defeat to South Africa early this year, New Zealand have not lost a home series since 2014.

New Zealand’s batting depth came to the fore in the last match when they recovered from 186 for 5 to end up with 325 in 50 overs. And each of their pacers is equipped to exploit the swing on offer, led by Trent Boult, who returned career-best figures of 7 for 34 in the second ODI.

Form guide

New Zealand WWLLW (completed matches, most recent first)

West Indies LLLLL

In the spotlight

Opener George Worker has had a solid start to his ODI career. He is reaping the benefits of a fruitful 2016-17 domestic season, followed by a strong club season in England. Worker has thrived in the absence of Martin Guptill, who is still overcoming a hamstring strain. With a brace of half-centuries already in this series, another strong show will make things interesting on the selection front once Guptill is fit.

Shannon Gabriel has been rendered ineffective in seamer-friendly conditions. He hasn’t done justice to his pace and has gone wicketless this series. Besides, he has gone for 132 runs in the 20 overs he has bowled. Coming from one of the strike bowlers in the team, that is a tad underwhelming. West Indies need Gabriel at his best to stop a powerful New Zealand line-up and avoid a 3-0 sweep.

Team news

New Zealand are unlikely to ring in changes. Mitchell Santner has not played a part in this ODI series yet, and that will likely remain the case, with Todd Astle having scored runs and picked up wickets in the two games so far.

New Zealand (probable): 1 George Worker, 2 Colin Munro, 3 Neil Broom, 4 Ross Taylor, 5 Tom Latham (capt, wk), 6 Henry Nicholls, 7 Todd Astle, 8 Doug Bracewell, 9 Lockie Ferguson, 10 Matt Henry, 11 Trent Boult

Law sounded optimistic about Chris Gayle’s recovery from a bout of viral infection. Gayle has been in belligerent form lately: he struck a record 18 sixes in a T20 innings, in the final of the recently-concluded Bangladesh Premier League that gave his side Rangpur Riders the title. Should Gayle recover, Kyle Hope will sit out.

Ronsford Beaton, who was pulled up for a suspect action after the second ODI, is likely to miss out with a side strain, while Kesrick Williams has hamstring troubles. That leaves West Indies thin on the fast-bowling front and they may be forced to pick the left-arm spinner Nikita Miller.

West Indies (probable): 1 Chris Gayle/Kyle Hope, 2 Evin Lewis, 3 Shai Hope (wk), 4 Shimron Hetmyer, 5 Jason Mohammed, 6 Jason Holder (capt), 7 Rovman Powell, 8 Ashley Nurse, 9 Nikita Miller, 10 Sheldon Cottrell , 11 Shannon Gabriel

Pitch and conditions

Christchurch is known to be a pacer’s paradise, with the greenness of the surface and the swing it offers. But once the new ball is blunted, it does tend to favour batting, as witnessed in the previous game where New Zealand put up 325 from 186 for 5. All that is only if the weather permits. A cold start is expected on Boxing Day, with isolated showers, especially around midday and evening.

Stats and trivia

  • Tom Latham needs 133 runs to complete 2000 runs in One-Day Internationals.

  • West Indies’ 204-run defeat in the second ODI was their heaviest to New Zealand in ODIs.

Quotes

“It’s a little bit different waking up [on Christmas] morning and saying ‘Merry Christmas’ to everybody. Nice to get out of the house [for training] and earn the Christmas ham.”
New Zealand opener George Worker

“Words are cheap. We’ve got to see actions now. I don’t think what we saw in the first two games is a fair indication of how well these guys can play. We were trying to get 300 in 25 overs, when we had 50 overs to get it. Our guys want to be positive and play an attractive brand, but you can’t be reckless with it. You’ve got to be smart in the way you go about it.”
West Indies coach Stuart Law



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