'Bowling must improve' - Vettori
Having been spanked to most parts of McLean Park in Napier during the first ODI against Sri Lanka, New Zealand's bowling attack are looking to improve on a bowling performance that saw them give up a hefty target 285 with ten overs to spare.
With Sanath Jayasuriya leading the way with 111, from just 82 balls, Sri Lanka coasted to a comfortable seven-wicket win. It led Daniel Vettori, captain in place of Stephen Fleming for the first two ODIs and by some distance the most economical Kiwi bowler (only 36 runs from eight overs), to ask his bowlers to get the basics right, a fair demand given that his bowlers gave away 16 wides and no-balls.
"The bowling plan is exactly the same, it's just about the implementation, which we let slip in Napier," he said. "Sri Lanka bat down to seven and eight, so you've got to take wickets at the top and try not to buy those wickets, which we tended to do in the first game."
John Bracewell, the Kiwi coach, also backed his inexperienced attack to come good for the second ODI, to be played at Queenstown tomorrow. "They were pretty positive by the time we left the dressing room [at Napier] in terms of what they were going to do about the next game," he was quoted as saying in the New Zealand Herald. "The proof will be in the pudding - to see if they improve or go backwards." New Zealand will be without Shane Bond again, who is sitting out the first two games, like Fleming, as part of a rotation policy.
Bracewell said the performance was mainly down to younger bowlers getting carried away by the speed gun, especially after the second Twenty20 international, where some of the bowlers touched speeds of 140km/h and above.
"The inexperience showed. A couple of young bowlers who can bowl reasonably fast got a bit red-eye with the radar. They were trying to run in a little too hard and bowl a little too fast in an effort to get wickets, rather than trying to control the game through good accurate, back-of-the-length bowling."
But Bracewell was adamant that the exuberance wasn't necessarily a bad thing, especially if New Zealand were serious about developing a genuine pace attack. "If we want a pace attack, then we have to be prepared to give them some sort of leeway. I don't want to knock their confidence. If you can find quick bowlers who can hit the back-of-a-length, then they're going to be handy for you in the long run; much more useful rather than medium pacers we normally produce."
The other concern for the hosts is the condition of Nathan Astle's bruised thigh, making him an uncertain starter for the Queenstown match. His experience, as Vettori admitted, is invaluable: he guided his side home chasing a mediocre total in the Twenty20 game on Boxing Day and in the first ODI, made an accomplished 83, passing in the process, 7000 ODI runs.
New Zealand have called up Astle's brother-in-law Craig McMillan as cover, though if he does play, it would be his first international action in over a year. "If we lose that experience and we lose that form it's going to mean someone is going to have to step up to cover it," Vettori said. James Marshall, who was out first ball in Napier, is likely to step into Astle's opening position if he is ruled unfit though the final teams will only be announced on the morning of the match.
Sri Lankan captain Mahela Jayawardene has few such concerns and is not expecting significant changes in the side. "We have to keep a combination, we need to keep confidence in the guys and have the senior group -- the matchwinners -- intact and in form as we build up to the World Cup," Jayawardene said.