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September 28, 2009
The last thing New Zealand ever need, given the relatively limited size of their cricket-playing pool, is an injury crisis. It is somehow in keeping with the way the cookie often crumbles for underdogs, though less than a week ago, calling anyone the underdogs in a battle with England could only mean an associate nation was playing.
But an outbreak of injury is precisely what Daniel Vettori finds himself dealing with, as he heads into what is, for his side, a quarter-final with England at The Wanderers. Jacob Oram has already gone home, another disruption in a desperately curtailed career; Daryl Tuffey has broken his hand and heads back home for surgery; Ian Butler is recovering from an intestinal infection which has seen him lose 7-8 kgs and he may or may not be ready for tomorrow; and of course Jesse Ryder, who took out the anger and frustration of his injury in a wildly entertaining and destructive 74, to set New Zealand up, is also out; Aaron Redmond, his replacement, will only arrive on the morning of the game, his flight from Hong Kong delayed by hours. You couldn't have found this script in ER.
It leaves Vettori with "the bare bones" of a squad but as with all New Zealand limited overs sides, you rule them out only if you are a fool. In this tournament of all tournaments you cannot underestimate them. "England have played exceptionally well since they have come here," said Vettori. "They've come up against two form sides and they have done the job and done it completely. We know if we are to have a chance we have to play really well. If you go on recent form and ours hasn't been great recently either so everyone was picking Sri Lanka and South Africa to go through and England and New Zealand to battle it out so it's a complete reversal and it's great for both sides."
Somehow New Zealand make things work and they are smart enough to find ways to win, as they did against Sri Lanka, where their top order finally kicked in; just their luck it is disrupted immediately. If Ryder is gone, Martin Guptill is at least in the runs and he may well find himself opening tomorrow. "Jesse Ryder is a big loss for us. The way he played in the last game showed what a destructive player he could be and even the last time he played against England in a home series a couple of years ago he was at his best.
"Aaron Redmond is coming as cover. He will get here tomorrow morning at 7am so it looks as if he will also not be playing. Guptill is the easy replacement because he opens back home and he has a few times for us. It's more about who is at number three and we've got a few options there to work through."
There will be chinks to iron out in the bowling attack as well; Shane Bond had a poor game against Sri Lanka, though he wasn't the only fast bowler in that match to have one and he isn't, incidentally, the only fast bowler to be hit around in this tournament. But James Franklin, who came in for Oram, had an "outstanding game" and Vettori will hope his left-arm seamer can produce more of the same against England. "Franklin can be selected in the team as a bowler and batter like Oram and that is such a luxury we lost with Jacob. Franklin gives us an obvious replacement and he proved it - he was outstanding for us in the last game."
As with Sri Lanka, there is a familiarity between New Zealand and England and both sides have played out tough ODI battles over the last couple of years. The surfaces in this tournament have evened things up between sides and the track tomorrow should again make for some good, balanced cricket. What it might come to is which side wants the win more and with a place in the semis at stake, New Zealand are naturally the more desperate.
"We played well in the home series and away against England. This is a neutral venue and both the teams know the wicket pretty well. It looks like it is going to turn into a good deck with lots of runs and both teams are coming off great batting performances. Both sides are confident of winning. Hopefully it means we are more desperate because it means our tournament. England are already through."
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