Williamson doubt as NZ seek to equal best run


MOUNT MAUNGANUI: A high bar has been set for the competitiveness of this series. The opening match was a humdinger, seized at the last by Mitchell Santner. It kept New Zealand unbeaten in ODIs this season – nine in a row, ten is their best sequence – and put England in the unusual position of being behind in a series, although the home side may have to do without their captain Kane Williamson, who has a hamstring strain.

One factor that made the Seddon Park match absorbing was that it was not a free-for-all for the batsmen. Runs were, by and large, tough to come by – only Joe Root and Tom Latham batted freely. It made Ross Taylor’s hundred an outstanding effort. Although there was a fair tally of sixes, 14 overall, they felt like an event: Jos Buttler getting on top of Ish Sodhi with three in a row then, decisively, Santner’s blows at the end.

In 2015 – that often-referenced series between these sides – the teams traded blows throughout the five matches, although that was a batting blitz. The bowlers may be able to have their say again in this match with one of New Zealand’s larger outfields at play, but this contest is something of an unknown quantity as it is Mount Maunganui’s first day-night ODI having been a regular on the T20 circuit for the last couple of seasons.

New Zealand coach Mike Hesson praised the development of Colin Munro’s bowling after his key incision to remove Joe Root with a knuckle ball in the opening match. Between him and Colin de Grandhomme, they got through 10 overs for the very limited damage of 51 runs. With the bat, it was a less auspicious start to the series for Munro – one huge six followed by one huge slog which he edged behind. Munro has a license to thrill – the Brendon McCullum role – but there remains a line to judge when it becomes reckless. Still, the signs are he’s only going to play one way: in his last 10 ODI innings he has only gone at a strike-rate of under 100 once, and that was a duck.

Players respond to breaks differently. Jonny Bairstow was scratchy with the bat, Moeen Ali didn’t quite settle with the ball, but Joe Root just picked up his serene form from Australia where he was Man of the Series in the ODIs. Some of his deft touches on a slow surface were a delight as he anchored England’s innings with a knock the conditions demanded. His one mistake brought his downfall and it had to go down as another century chance missed. But he has found superb consistency in his one-day cricket – he has the fifth-highest average of those to have played 100 or more matches – and surely three-figures will be hit before long.

New Zealand has been dealt a blow with Williamson a doubt. Mark Chapman has been called up as cover and there may also be a batting reshuffle. Tim Southee would take on the captaincy. Hesson said that Ish Sodhi was preferred for the first ODI on the strength of his bowling, ahead of the more all-round option of Todd Astle. Therefore, if two spinners are again needed logic would suggest Sodhi, although somewhat expensive in Hamilton, will get another crack. If extra pace is wanted, Lockie Ferguson is an option.

New Zealand (probable) 1 Martin Guptill, 2 Colin Munro, 3 Mark Chapman, 4 Ross Taylor, 5 Tom Latham (wk), 6 Henry Nicholls, 7 Colin de Grandhomme, 8 Mitchell Santner, 9 Tim Southee (capt), 10 Ish Sodhi, 11 Trent Boult.

Craig Overton could come into the mix for an ODI debut if England wants to change the dynamic of their pace attack. David Willey bowled well with the new ball in Hamilton, but was not used again in the innings.

England (probable) 1 Jason Roy, 2 Jonny Bairstow, 3 Joe Root, 4 Eoin Morgan (capt), 5 Ben Stokes, 6 Jos Buttler (wk), 7 Moeen Ali, 8 Chris Woakes, 9 Adil Rashid, 10 Tom Curran, 11 David Willey/Craig Overton

Pitch and conditions

Chris Woakes said there was more grass on the surface than in Hamilton which could mean a little more pace and carry for the quicks. Earlier this season New Zealand made 243 for 5 in a T20 against West Indies. The forecast has improved with just the small chance of an evening shower.