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April 27, 2010
New Zealand's captain Daniel Vettori knows he will need to play a key role on the slow, low Caribbean pitches for his side to break its habit of falling just short of success in major tournaments. Spin is expected to be an important weapon at most of the venues for the ICC World Twenty20 and New Zealand have chosen a squad with several slow-bowling options.
Vettori will lead the attack for the two pool games against Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe in Guyana, while Nathan McCullum is expected to be his major backup in the spin department. The allrounder Rob Nicol is another slow-bowling option for New Zealand, who will rely on Shane Bond to spearhead a pace group that also includes the allrounder Jacob Oram.
"We're very confident," Vettori said. "You throw in Kyle Mills, who's come back and has been a very successful bowler for us, Tim Southee has done a good job, Ian Butler has come back from injury as well and at times has done a good job for us, so between the five of them from the seam bowling department I think they'll be very adequate.
"But I think spin bowling is going to play a big part, particularly on the slower grounds in the Caribbean. We're expecting myself and Nathan McCullum to play a big role."
New Zealand have been regular semi-finalists in major tournaments over the past few years, reaching the final four at the 2007 World Twenty20 in South Africa, the World Cup in the West Indies earlier that year, and the 2006 Champions Trophy. They went one better by reaching the decider of last year's Champions Trophy but the batsman Scott Styris said nothing short of securing silverware will satisfy the squad this time.
"We keep making it to the semi-finals and not going any further, although the Champions Trophy we did make the final," Styris said. "What it shows is that we do play well in these big tournaments. We have a history of doing pretty well right back for the last ten years or so.
"If we play well we're a chance, and we're not just looking for a semi-final spot or a Super Eights, it's a real chance to win. We go in to this tournament with the view that we have to win this tournament. We're good enough to win it, and if we don't win it then it has to be disappointing."
Although an attack fronted by Vettori and Bond is threatening, their chances of success will rest heavily on how the top order performs. Brendon McCullum is fresh from blasting the second century in Twenty20 international history, against Australia, while Jesse Ryder and Ross Taylor are also potential match-winners.
The squad features several allrounders, with Southee and Bond the only real tailenders in the touring party, and the long batting line-up is an added bonus. New Zealand will look to Oram, who is returning from a torn patella tendon, as the big-hitter in the lower middle order and he is confident the group features enough strikepower to challenge any attack.
"I think we've got a very explosive top order," Oram said. "Our batting line-up to me is very, very strong and right down to No. 8, 9 and even 10 sometimes, we've got guys who can come in and hit the ball a long way. I think that's our main strength."
New Zealand have two warm-up games, against Ireland on Tuesday and West Indies on Wednesday, to fine-tune their side before the real competition begins. Vettori's men walk out for the series opener against Sri Lanka at Providence Stadium on Friday.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Plays of the Day from the second ODI between England and India, in Cardiff
Plays of the day from the third ODI between England and India at Trent Bridge