They are the world champions in this format, but will this depleted squad cut it against a rampant New Zealand? A small galaxy of T20 stars has not made the trip. Kieron Pollard and Sunil Narine have pulled out due to personal reasons. Dwayne Bravo and Darren Sammy are at odds with the board. Marlon Samuels was withdrawn due to injury
While Chris Gayle
and ace legspinner Samuel Badree
are present, West Indies still have the potential to blow the opposition away, but they haven't exactly left themselves with the best possible chance of ending New Zealand's five-match winning streak on this tour. The visitors are relying on the lesser-known agents of firepower - the likes of Andre Fletcher
, and Shimron Hetmyer
- and on the sudden exuberance that seems to invade their cricket when they switch to the shortest format.
The hosts are somewhat depleted themselves - Kane Williamson being rested for the first T20, leaving Tim Southee
to lead the side. Trent Boult - unstoppable in the ODIs
- is also being given a two-match break. New Zealand will be wary of West Indies' reputation, but not worried just yet, so emphatically have they turned home conditions to their favour in the last few weeks.
New Zealand LWLLW (completed matches, most recent first)
West Indies WWWWW
Although Carlos Brathwaite
's form has been patchy in domestic T20 tournaments, the captaincy appears to be treating him well at the top level. He averages
48 with the bat across five innings this year, though at a modest strike rate of 116. With the ball, he has consistently taken wickets, but even more importantly, West Indies are performing under his leadership, having won six of their last seven games. Most of those victories had come with Narine and Samuels in the XI, however. In going up against a strong home side with this particular squad, Brathwaite faces perhaps his sternest captaincy challenge yet.
There can be little question. Adam Milne is no longer the quickest bowler in New Zealand. That mantle has passed to Lockie Ferguson
, who has been fast tracked into the national side, and is beginning to enjoy success at the top level. For now, he is getting wickets with pure pace, hitting the wickets before batsmen have a chance to play their shots, and prompting panicked fending with well-directed bouncers. Having seen him through the ODIs now, West Indies will feel themselves more capable of countering Ferguson in a format where the very quick bowlers can often be expensive.
With Williamson and Colin de Grandhomme (who left the country following the death of his father) unavailable, there may be opportunities for the likes of Anaru Kitchen
and Tom Bruce
. Ross Taylor's return to the T20 XI may mean that those two players are competing for only one spot, however. Martin Guptill also comes back to the top of the order, after missing the ODIs due to injury.
New Zealand (probable): 1 Martin Guptill, 2 Colin Munro, 3 Ross Taylor, 4 Glenn Phillips (wk), 5 Henry Nicholls, 6 Tom Bruce, 7 Mitchell Santner, 8 Doug Bracewell, 9 Lockie Ferguson, 10 Tim Southee (capt.), 11 Ish Sodhi
Ronsford Beaton has returned home with a side strain, and with Pollard also having pulled out, West Indies' XI is difficult to predict. They have plenty of options: three potential wicketkeepers and a number of allrounders gracing their squad. Sheldon Cottrell - the left-arm quick who had success in the ODIs - may get his chance to shine in this format also.
West Indies (probable): 1 Chris Gayle, 2 Andre Fletcher, 3 Shimron Hetmyer, 4 Shai Hope (wk), 5 Jason Mohammed, 6 Rovman Powell, 7 Carlos Brathwaite (capt.), 8 Ashley Nurse, 9 Samuel Badree, 10 Jerome Taylor, 11 Kesrick Williams/Sheldon Cottrell
The weather in Nelson is forecast to be dry for the duration of this match, with temperatures likely to reach the low 20 C range. Saxton Oval has never hosted a T20, but ODI scores of over 300 have occasionally been reached there.
"Chris Gayle has been kept quiet so far on this tour of New Zealand but good players don't stay quiet for too long so hopefully we can continue the way we've been bowling to him."
New Zealand stand-in captain Tim Southee on neutralising a major threat
"Regardless of whether we win or lose we need to play like world champions. People in the Caribbean look to the T20 format for the success and feel good and we need to do that. If there's added pressure then so be it. We have a legacy to carry on."
Carlos Brathwaite wants his side to live up to reputation