Recent numbers point to New Zealand
West Indies and New Zealand have played 45 one-day internationals, and while the Windies hold a 23-17 advantage, a closer inspection of the records indicate that most of those wins came before 2000. During that period, they won 19 times and lost only four; since 2000, though, New Zealand have held the whip, winning 13 and losing four, including a 3-1 series win in the West Indies in 2002. (Click here for the full list of results between the two teams.)
Opening advantage to West Indies
West Indies may not have had much success against New Zealand lately, but they do have the firepower - especially in home conditions - to pull off a win. Chris Gayle and Shivnarine Chanderpaul lead a sparkling batting line-up, and while the two have been a spectacular opening combination - they average 51.81 per partnership against all teams, and 70.75 against New Zealand in five innings - they will have to be wary of Shane Bond.
New Zealand's first-choice openers weren't so bad either, but the wrist injury to Lou Vincent means they'll go in with the untried pair of Peter Fulton and Stephen Fleming. That should offer West Indies an early opportunity to nail a breakthrough.
The crucial middle overs
With a line-up comprising Brian Lara, Ramnaresh Sarwan and Marlon Samuels, the West Indies middle order looks an imposing one. The team has done pretty well recently, averaging 35 at 4.35 per over between the 21st and 40th overs. New Zealand have done even better, averaging 43.61 at 4.68, but it remains to be seen to what extent they'll miss Ross Taylor, who is likely to skip the match due to a hamstring strain.
West Indies' performance in the middle overs will also depend to a large extent on how they handle Daniel Vettori. While his overall stats against West Indies are excellent, all his success against them has come either at home or at neutral venues. He'll have to improve significantly on his numbers in the West Indies for Fleming to feel confident of winning the battle in the middle overs.
|In the West Indies||4||1||127.00||6.35|
|Outside the West Indies||14||21||19.19||3.46|
Brian Lara is usually West Indies' key batsman anyway, but his ability to play spin makes him an especially vital cog for Thursday's match. The threat posed by Vettori could be significantly blunted if he stays at the crease long enough. Lara averages more than 51 from 27 games against New Zealand, which suggests the fans might be in for another batting masterclass.
The final charge
Jacob Oram and Brendan McCullum have been the stars for New Zealand in the crucial last ten overs. The table below shows how the two have fared in the last ten overs since 2006 - if they stay at the crease for a reasonable period of time on Thursday, West Indies will end up leaking plenty of runs.
|Batsman||Balls||Runs||Dismissals||Average||Runs per over|
S Rajesh is stats editor of Cricinfo