New Zealand vs West Indies 2nd T20I Preview: Pollard needs support from team-mates as Men in Maroon eye parity
While skipper Kieron Pollard looked a class apart for West Indies with a stroke-field 37-ball unbeaten 75 at a strike rate of over 200 in the first T20I, the rest of the players need to step up.
Star players missing
Despite a lot of big names missing, the quality of cricket was quite good in the opening encounter of the T20I series between New Zealand and West Indies. While New Zealand were without two of their main players, Kane Williamson and Trent Boult, West Indies too had a handful of their first-choice personnel missing.
Players like Evin Lewis, Lendl Simmons, Johnson Charles and Andre Russell are plying their trade elsewhere and remain unavailable for international commitments or have not been picked. An injury to Dwayne Bravo, who came out of international retirement, in the IPL also did not help their cause.
The saving grace though is that Kieron Pollard is still part of the international team and is leading them by example.
Fast and furious Ferguson
After West Indies openers, particularly Andre Fletcher, started on a brilliant note as he took on debutant Kyle Jamieson, taking him for 18 runs in the first over, West Indies raced past the 50-run mark after just three overs.
However, Lockie Ferguson turned things around by dismissing three of West Indies' top 4. He started off by castling Andre Fletcher. Ferguson's extra pace, which was on display for Kolkata Knight Riders in the recently-concluded IPL, got the better of the heart of West Indies batting lineup - Shimron Hetmyer and Nicholas Pooran.
While Hetmyer was dismissed for a duck, Pooran could add only one run and this is where the West Indies batting line-up really faltered. From 58 for no loss, West Indies went to 59 for 5 and were headed towards a really cheap dismissal.
Kieron Pollard, who was in exceptional hitting form for Mumbai Indians in the IPL, took the attack to the opposition. He turned the tide with an unbeaten 37-ball 75 which included some brutal hitting. The all-rounder powered 4 fours and 8 sixes - towards the spectators who returned for this match - at a strike rate of over 200 and remained unbeaten.
He got good support from Fabian Allen who played second fiddle. Despite frequent rain delays, West Indies did a great job of scoring 180 runs from the curtailed 16 overs.
Newbies and all-rounders combine for NZ's success
With lesser number of overs giving New Zealand an advantage while chasing, the team did not start well, losing both their openers within the first four overs.
New entries in the Kiwi setup, Devon Conway and Glenn Phillips then gave the Kieron Pollard-led West Indies a taste of their own medicine as they ensured that the ball kept sailing over the ropes. The run-out of Ross Taylor for a duck really jolted New Zealand as he remains a big player for the side.
However, James Neesham and Mitchell Santner, who were really off-colour with the ball, made it up with bat in hand. While Neesham made 48 off 24 deliveries at a strike rate of 200, Santner was unbeaten on 31 off 18 deliveries and hit the winning runs to help New Zealand take a 1-0 lead.
New venue, new challenges
The opening encounter was played at the Eden Park in Auckland which apart from having lopsided boundaries also makes it hell for the bowlers as balls fly quickly.
The second match of the series will be played at the Bay Oval in Mount Maunganui which will present its own challenges. With the ground being open on all sides, the wind plays a big role at the venue. It will need the players to be smart and use the wind as they try to hit it downwind rather than trying to muscle it upwind.
Here's the probable playing XI of both teams:
New Zealand - Martin Guptill, Tim Seifert (wk), Devon Conway, Glenn Phillips, Ross Taylor, James Neesham, Mitchell Santner, Tim Southee (c), Kyle Jamieson, Lockie Ferguson, Hamish Bennett
West Indies - Brandon King, Andre Fletcher, Shimron Hetmyer, Nicholas Pooran (wk), Rovman Powell, Kieron Pollard (c), Fabian Allen, Keemo Paul, Sheldon Cottrell, Kesrick Williams, Oshane Thomas
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