Cricket returns to Hamilton with series up for grabs
International cricket returns to Hamilton's Seddon Park with the five-match series between New Zealand and Sri Lanka evenly poised at 2-2. In what has been a tight, thrilling series - including a mockery of a very competitive total, a last-ball thriller, and a steamroll if ever there was - the focus has shifted to the final ODI, with New Zealand's thumping defeat at Auckland giving Sri Lanka the impetus.
Preferring not to focus on the pressure, Daniel Vettori, the New Zealand spinner, hoped tomorrow's match would cement Seddon Park as one the top two venues in the country. The stadium last hosted an ODI in January 2003, though New Zealand played a World XI in early 2005, but Vettori, set to make his first appearance at home in three years, felt Test cricket would return as well.
"I think the Basin [Reserve, in Wellington] and Hamilton have that unique atmosphere because they are purely cricket grounds," he was quoted as saying by the website stuff.co.nz. "Hopefully those two get as many Tests as possible but we will have to wait and see."
Vettori returned to a purely batsmen-oriented practice session today from a virus that ruled him out at Auckland, while James Franklin, after having his knee assessed, participated as well.
Personally, Vettori has enjoyed Seddon Park; when just 16, he first appeared here for New Zealand as a substitute fielder in a Test against Zimbabwe, and also picked up his first Test five-wicket haul and hundred here. "It's certainly up there because you're playing at your home ground and because it's purely a cricket ground it makes it more of an occasion," he said. "Many of the others are dual purpose so you don't feel the same atmosphere. I don't think you notice who is there once you start playing but it's a nice opportunity for them [friends and family] - they don't have to travel too far."
Hamish Marshall, the middle-order batsman, believed New Zealand have the chance to quickly make amends tomorrow. "[Auckland] was one of those days where we had a bad one but the series is still two-two and there for the taking," he said yesterday. "Tuesday is now a final situation and we've got to get out there and show a bit of character. We'd like to head to Australia [for the Commonwealth Bank tri-series] with a series win."
Marshall said the top order needed to score the bulk of the runs rather than rely on the lower order. "We have in the past had a long batting order but the responsibility is with the top order to get the runs."
Both sides will name their XI before the toss.