New Zealand seek balance with Mills at No. 7
Daniel Vettori, the New Zealand captain, is pondering the option of using two spinners and promoting Kyle Mills to No. 7 for the opening ODI against Australia on February 1 in Perth. It might be a risky move, but Vettori felt playing five frontline bowlers was the right approach for a team hurt by the absence of allrounder Jacob Oram.
Vettori's plan might alter depending on the conditions at the WACA, but he was pleased with Patel's efforts in the disappointing warm-up loss to the Prime Minister's XI in Canberra. Patel took 2 for 51 off 10 overs in the hosts' successful chase of 272. "I was really pleased with how Jeetan bowled - obviously his last over went for a little bit - but he bowled well and he comes into play," Vettori told NZPA."Even Perth, by all accounts it turns a little bit and sits in the wicket so we'll look at that.
"Kyle Mills at seven hopefully works for us and offers us a bit more balance with a full-strength bowling line-up," Vettori said. He confirmed Tim Southee will return for the first ODI after being rested in Canberra, and that MRI scans have cleared batsman Jesse Ryder of serious damage to his shoulder.
Vettori was upset that the tour had started with a loss. "Winning's such an important thing when you come to a place like Australia, if you can get off to a good start the you can ride it the whole time," he told AAP. "If you're always continually trying to chase the result or get back on the horse then it makes it very difficult so we wanted to win today to go on to Perth with a little bit of confidence.
"We bowled really poorly [in Canberra], that's something we're going to have to lift. We just bowled both sides of the wicket, we looked like we didn't have a plan when we turned up to bowl, and guys just turned up and hoped for things to happen.
"We hope that our planning will give us an advantage, we hope that we'll be able to be quite insightful in our thinking in terms of how to attack some players. We just have to be at the absolute pinnacle of our game to beat Australia."
The team's bowling and fielding - they spilled at least three chances - also left coach Andy Moles unimpressed. "It's a bit of a wake-up call more than anything else. We know we're in for a tough tour, and we've spoken about it," Moles said. "It's disappointing we didn't show a little bit more fight in the field, collectively, and it's disappointing that they need a wake-up call.
"We're looking forward to getting to Perth and showing some spirit." Moles said the heat, which soared to nearly 37ºC in Canberra, was a concern, but said his team would have to cope with oppressive conditions in Perth as well.
Another worry was the fitness of wicketkeeper-opener Brendon McCullum, who battled his hip strain to score 114 off 130 balls in Canberra, ending a recent run of poor scores. McCullum, though, did not take the field during the chase. He will undergo further treatment, but if he is unfit to keep, Gareth Hopkins, called up as cover, would come into the top six at the expense of either Neil Broom and Grant Elliott.
"I'd rather be involved in the series just as a batter than not play at all," McCullum said. "That's my role, wicketkeeper-batsman, and when you're not wicketkeeping it does make it harder and does affect our balance.
"But you've got to look at long-term plan as well and I've just got to make sure I'm sensible about what's right and wrong and don't try to force it too much. I'm used to trying to operate at a strike rate of 120-130, so to not be able to play like that was a little frustrating.
"I've been looking for an ugly hundred for a while to try and find the tempo with which I have to bat at. That was the one positive, I wasn't feeling that great but still managed to get through to a score.
"I'm trying to bat a similar way, and if I can get a pitch with more pace and try to find my timing a bit better I'll end up scoring quicker anyway. I've got to flick the switch from trying to score 70-80 off 40 balls to make sure I bat 35-40 overs and make a contribution that way."