West Indies back to format they relish
July 5, 2014, Roseau
Start time 1400 (1800 GMT)
The Big Picture
Having had to scrap every inch of the way to secure a historic Test series win, it's only natural if New Zealand's intensity dips to an extent for the two T20s that end their tour. The fact that they haven't bothered to fly in any limited-overs specialists specifically for the T20 series only adds to the feeling that New Zealand aren't looking at this as a particularly high-priority task. .
Kane Williamson sought to play this down ahead of the first T20.
"It can be a challenge when you spend so much time away from home and you get close to leaving, but the guys are all focused on these two T20s and they want to enjoy them and it would be great to come away with some wins," he said. "We are always backing ourselves. We know the West Indies are one of the best teams in the world, if not the best team in the world, at this format so we know it will be a good challenge."
West Indies are close to being at full-strength, apart from their resting of Chris Gayle, and will present New Zealand very different questions from the ones they answered so comprehensively in whites. Krishmar Santokie, Sunil Narine and Samuel Badree represent, arguably, the best T20 attack in the world, and it will be a test for New Zealand's batsmen to adjust to facing things like slower balls and carrom balls all over again. Ross Taylor and Brendon McCullum, meanwhile, will want some runs after an ordinary time in whites, while Corey Anderson and Luke Ronchi will welcome some action having played no part in the Tests.
West Indies, by now, are familiar with the situation they face - a side full of limited-overs specialists looking to salvage a win or two after their team has lost a Test series. But within that are a few key personnel changes in the batting department. Dwayne Bravo is still quite a way from recovering from his shoulder injury, but that is balanced by the return of Keiron Pollard after a year out of international cricket. Lendl Simmons will look to carry the form from a successful IPL season into the international level, having had a relatively quiet T20I career so far. Marlon Samuels is out of the middle order, and Darren Bravo will most likely take his place.
Form guide(Most recent first)
West Indies LWWWL
New Zealand LWLWW
Watch out for
After missing the Test series for choosing to play the IPL final rather than attend West Indies' preparatory camp for the first Test, Sunil Narine is back in international cricket. Sulieman Benn and Shane Shillingford, the spinners West Indies went with in the Test series, ended up with series bowling averages of 37.64 and 63.60. Narine's performance in the two T20s won't answer the question of whether his presence would have made a difference to West Indies in the Tests, but they may still be left wondering if New Zealand's batsmen struggle against him.
Kane Williamson was the Man of the Series in the Tests, and is in sublime batting form. During the World T20s, he was one of New Zealand's brightest sparks with the bat, scoring a 35-ball 51 against South Africa and a staggering 42, out of a total of 60 all out, against Sri Lanka. He demonstrated quite clearly in that innings that he was New Zealand's best player of spin, and his skills will once again be called on against Narine and Samuel Badree.
Venue and conditions
Windsor Park is hosting its first-ever international T20 match, and its first limited-overs game since May 2010, when it hosted its second ODI. There have been three Test matches at the venue since then, though, and a quick glance at the list of highest wicket-takers here suggests that the spinners will have a good time.
Darren Sammy returns to lead the side in the only format in which he captains West Indies. With a host of other short-form stars also back, West Indies are a formidable side even in the absence of Gayle and Dwayne Bravo.
West Indies (probable) 1 Dwayne Smith, 2 Lendl Simmons, 3 Andre Fletcher, 4 Darren Bravo, 5 Kieron Pollard, 6 Darren Sammy (capt), 7 Denesh Ramdin (wk), 8 Andre Russell, 9 Sunil Narine, 10 Samuel Badree, 11 Krishmar Santokie
New Zealand will promote Jimmy Neesham up to open alongside Williamson, in a bid to accommodate both Neesham and Corey Anderson in their limited-overs sides in the long term. McCullum said that Ish Sodhi will make his T20 international debut*. Otherwise, it's hard to say what combination they will go in with, considering they have retained their Test squad for the T20 series, and are therefore without a number of their short-format regulars, including Martin Guptill, Mitchell McClenaghan and Nathan McCullum.
New Zealand (possible) 1 Kane Williamson, 2 Jimmy Neesham, 3 Brendon McCullum (capt), 4 Ross Taylor, 5 Tom Latham/BJ Watling, 6 Corey Anderson, 7 Luke Ronchi (wk), 8 Ish Sodhi, 9 Tim Southee, 10 Neil Wagner/Mark Craig, 11 Trent Boult
Stats and trivia
- Sunil Narine loves bowling against New Zealand. He has taken 12 wickets against them, more than he has against any other team, and his average of 10.83 is bettered only by his average of 9.42 against Pakistan.
- This is the first T20 meeting between the two teams in the West Indies. They have met each other five times in New Zealand, once in Sri Lanka, and twice in Lauderhill, Florida.
* 4.30am GMT July 5, 2014: The preview has been updated with the news that Ish Sodhi will play
Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo