Black Caps Confident Ahead Of First ODI

Publish Date
Saturday, 26 December 2015, 9:18AM
Getty Images

Getty Images

A year ago, Mitchell Santner was in a Northern Districts team being flogged by Otago at Alexandra.

Seven overs for 49 and 15 with the bat were his part in a 222-run clobbering at Molyneux Park on December 27.

Yesterday he couldn't remember the specifics, or where he was. Mind you, you wouldn't want to. Also that's no surprise, given what's happened to the lean lefthander since.

"It's happened pretty fast," he said yesterday of his rise to the point where he is locking down an allrounder's spot in New Zealand's test team and is seen as having an important role within the ODI side.

"It's been a pretty special experience. I try not to think about it too much. I try and take it day by day."

He will line up at Hagley Oval in Christchurch today before a large crowd full of Christmas cheer for the first of five ODIs against Sri Lanka.

It's the start of Brendon McCullum's final lap around the country before retirement and New Zealand will want to start strongly.

They christened Hagley Oval against the Sri Lankans last summer, winning the Boxing Day test by eight wickets on the back of a McCullum special, 195 off 134 balls, then beating them by three wickets in the inaugural ODI.

New Zealand like the ground, where the crowd are close and the pitch good.

"It's always been a belter here. The last couple of years have produced lots of runs and I expect that on Boxing Day," New Zealand batting coach Craig McMillan said.

Expect an international debut for Canterbury boy Henry Nicholls in the middle order. He's been earmarked for a while now and McMillan hinted strongly at his inclusion.

"I don't think there's any better place than making your debut at home," fellow Cantabrian McMillan said. "He's played a lot of cricket here so that will probably ease the tension at a ground where you know you've played well before."

New Zealand have a ready-made incentive in this series. Win 4-1 and they climb to No 3 on the International Cricket Council rankings, ahead of South Africa and behind Australia and India.

Their only selection decisions are around whether to play star batsman Kane Williamson, who has been troubled by a dicky right knee, or take no chances. If they go with caution, expect test opener Tom Latham, with the squad as cover, to play, or George Worker.

The other issue is whether New Zealand want to go with a four-pronged fast-medium attack -- Doug Bracewell, Adam Milne, Mitch McClenaghan and Matt Henry, or plump for legspinner Ish Sodhi, in a 3-2 seam/spin mix.

Sri Lanka are one ranking spot behind New Zealand and well skilled in the short form.

Among those joining the tour, who were not in the test group, are batsmen Lahiru Thirimanne, who made good runs against Pakistan and the West Indies in Sri Lanka's last two ODI series, and the ageless Tillekaratne Dilshan.

He's 39, has hit 22 ODI centuries, including two in eight days off New Zealand bowlers last January. His spin bowling and fielding is equally useful. Dilshan continues to defy the aging process.

"I've watched a lot of him on TV and obviously he's a serious player," Santner said. "We've done our scouting plans on him and hopefully we get off to a good start and limit his scoring options."

No Lasith Malinga is a blow but spinners Ajantha Mendis and Sachithra Senanayake are back to furrow New Zealand brows.

Back the home side, who are confident after the 2-0 test series win, but over five games, they'll have their work cut out.


NZ v Sri LankaHagley Oval, 11am today

New Zealand: (from) Brendon McCullum (c), Martin Guptill, Kane Williamson, Tom Latham, Ross Taylor, George Worker, Henry Nicholls, Luke Ronchi, Mitchell Santner, Doug Bracewell, Ish Sodhi, Adam Milne, Mitchell McClenaghan, Matt Henry.

Sri Lanka: (from) Angelo Mathews (c), Tillekaratne Dilshan, Lahiru Thirimanne, Dinesh Chandimal, Milinda Siriwardana, Chamara Kapugedera, Kithuruwan Vithanage, Danushka Gunathilaka, Thisara Perera, Suranga Lakmal, Ajantha Mendis, Sachithra Senanayake, Dushmantha Chameera, Jeffrey Vandersay, Nuwan Pradeep, Nuwan Kulasekara

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