Friday 25 February 2011

2 potentially absorbing matches

The return to Nagpur for New Zealand, and the battle for recognition for Ireland.

New Zealand had been looking like they had left the horror Bangladesh series behind them when they drew the first two tests with India. Then came Nagpur, and a humiliating innings defeat, that paved the way for a clean sweep in the ODI series.

Ireland have won 2 of their 6 matches against Bangladesh, but have lost the three in Asia convincingly.

Here are some things to watch for in the games:

NZ vs Australia

1. Spin bowling. Nagpur has been a spinners pitch, and both team have had trouble playing spin. Australia has only managed to score 4.63 runs an over off spin over the last 2 years (compared to 5.17 overall) and New Zealand has averaged only 26.85 against spin in the same period. Both of these numbers are frighteningly bad for teams that are playing a tournament in the sub-continent.

2. Hamish Bennett in for Kyle Mills. Kyle Mills has tormented Australia recently, averaging 17.50 at 4.03 rpo. How Hamish Bennett and Tim Southee cope without him there will make a big difference to how New Zealand fare. Bennett has an awkward action and often batsmen struggle the first time they face him. (he took 3 wickets in his first match against Bangladesh, 0 in the second, 4 wickets in the first game against Pakistan, 2-54 off 7 in the second, 4 wickets in first match against Kenya). The surprise factor will work in his favour against Australia. However Bennett does seem to be much better when he doesn't open the bowling. His figures bowling at 3 or 4 are significantly better than when he's opened the bowling. No mills means that unless Vettori thrown the ball to Franklin, Bennett is likely to get given it.

3. Jason Krejza. Attacking offspin bowling is not something New Zealand has traditionally done well against. A lot of off-spinners had their career best figures against New Zealand, and so Krejza should be rubbing his hands together with glee coming into this match.

4. Mitchell Johnson vs Scott Styris. Two of the most abrasive players on the field, both love playing against each other. Styris has averaged close to 50 against Australia in the last couple of years, and Johnson has taken 27 wickets against New Zealand, making them his second favourite opponent (after India). They bumped heads in the recent Chappell Haddlee series, and it bought out the best in both of them.

5. Shane Watson. Without a doubt the stand out batsman of the Australian summer, Watson is also a player that loves the New Zealand bowlers. New Zealand is the only test-playing side that he averages over 50 against in ODI's.

6. Earthquake. There are normally 2 possible responses to a natural disaster at home for a traveling team. They either play extremely well, or extremely poorly. Accordingly it would not be a huge surprise if this game was to end in a very one-sided manner. One of New Zealand's most memorable moments in cricket was immediately following the Tangiwai Disaster.

Ireland vs Bangladesh

1. Big match players. Often Bangladesh have relied on Shakib Al Hasan and Tamim Iqbal, whil Porterfield and the O'Briens have made the big plays for Ireland. Whichever team counters these players may win the game.

2. Bounce. If there is any, then watch out Bangladesh. However the game is being played at Dhaka, and the pitch has been prepared to suit, so expect it to have about as much bounce as bowling on a sponge cake. It is likely that even Boyd Rankin will struggle to get it above waist high.

3. Where to from here. This is a must win for both teams. The winner of this match will rate their chances of knocking off the West Indies but for the loser the path to the final is up a very very steep hill.

4. A twist in the tail? Normally tail enders from lesser nations are very weak at batting. However both Bangladesh and Ireland have showed some real tenacity in recent years. Particularly Ireland with numbers 6-8 providing a lot of useful runs, quite quickly. If Ireland are to win (and I think that is unlikely given the game in in Dhaka) it may well be a late charge that gets them home. If I was going to be in-game betting, and Ireland were batting last, I would follow the Duckworth Lewis system, rather than rounding it down like I do for most minnows.

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