Here are a few thoughts about a couple of the match-ups I'll be looking forward to.
1. James Anderson vs Peter Fulton.
|Early in Fulton's career he got out a lot to the ball leaving the bat. He had a tendency to chase it, and as a result often ended up getting out. Since he was dropped from the NZ team he has made a real effort to focus on this, and in looking through his innings over the last couple of years, I could only find 2 where he had been dismissed to this type of delivery.|
|However whenever a batsman makes a change to their technique there is always a question as to what new weakness it will open up. If he is looking for the one going away, then Anderson's ability to move the ball back in might be something that causes him some problems.|
2. Steven Finn & Stuart Broad vs Hamish Rutherford.
|There was an obvious plan in Queenstown to try and bounce Rutherford out. Finn and Broad both seem to have a tendency to try the short ball anyway, so if they sense blood they may be prone to giving Rutherford a real working over. If Rutherford is up to it, however this could give him something to attack, especially if they stray outside off, as he is very quick on the cut shot.|
3. Kane Williamson vs Kane Williamson.
|Can the boy wonder keep his game simple enough to play one of the innings that he's shown us previously he is capable of? Or will he get over-complicated in his approach and find another new way to get out.|
4. Joe Root vs Ross Taylor.
|There seems to be a theory that Ross Taylor is weak outside the off stump to off spinners. As a result Jayawardene had offies bowling outside off to him, and left a big gap for him to cut. Taylor left or defended the ball about 40 times. It will be interesting to see if Cook replicates this tactic. The extra bounce on the NZ wickets would normally mean that this wouldn't be such a good tactic, but given the instructions that the groundsman seems to have been given by the NZ camp this might be quite effective.|
5. Brendon McCullum vs the media.
|McCullum is walking a very tight line in terms of public perception. He's played some outstanding cricket on this tour, and yet people still somehow blame him for Ross Taylor no longer being captain. (They tend to ignore the fact that Taylor wasn't dropped as test captain, but instead chose to step down).|
|Even before that he was constantly under pressure. If he played his natural game (where he was generally much more successful) he was described as arrogant and irresponsible. If he played more conservatively (where he often was less successful) he was described as flaky, and not having the right temperament for test cricket. When he scores a hundred it's described as lucky, if he gets a fifty he gets criticized for not going on, and if he gets out for less than that there are calls for his head. The only way for him to win over the public is for him to play a series of outstanding innings that lead the team to victory. Perhaps if he gets his series average over 150 people might start to appreciate his contribution.|
6. Monty Panesar vs Brendon McCullum.
|Monty has dismissed McCullum a lot of times. In the last double-header series Panesar got McCullum 6 times. In fact, most left-armers who have bowled to McCullum have dismissed him a lot of times. Almost a quarter of his dismissals have been to left-arm spin, and they have often got him out when he was well set. Panesar will be relishing the opportunity to resume this particular battle.|
7. BJ Watling vs James Anderson.
|Watling dominated the 2nd string bowlers in the NZ XI match in Queenstown. He scored 66* and 89* and hardly looked troubled. Since he's put the gloves on his record is remarkable. He's scored more runs in his 5 test innings with the gloves than in the 14 previous without them. While 5 innings is hardly statistically significant, I was privileged enough to watch most of them live, and he was batting very, very well.|
|However in the ODI matches he came up against James Anderson, and looked significantly less assured. He faced 24 balls, scored 8 runs and was dismissed twice. The winner of that battle may well be decisive in the outcome of the match.|
8. Trent Boult vs Alistair Cook.
|Throughout Cook's career he has had a tendency to get out early to left arm swing bowlers. So far in Trent Boult's career he has often dismissed the most important batsman in the opposition team (in 10 tests his victims include Hussey, Amla, Kallis, Sangakkara, Tendulkar, Jayawardene and Gayle). Particularly if the ball is swinging, the Cook/Boult battle could be intriguing.|
9. Tim Southee vs Nick Compton.
|Compton seems to have an issue against the short pitched ball, and while Tim Southee is not express, he does have the ability to bowl a surprisingly quick bouncer. He managed to dismiss a few English batsmen with it in the Eden Park ODI match, and Compton might find himself on the end of a little chin music from Southee in this test.|
10. Bruce Martin vs Kevin Pietersen.
|Just like the battle between McCullum and Panesar, Pietersen has a history of getting out to left arm spin, and Bruce Martin will know that. However KP likes to dominate, and Martin has a tendency to be quite expensive, so there may be some fireworks if they get to face each other.|
11. Joe Root vs Joe Root.
|Root has only been dismissed once in the internationals in this tour. However he is likely to want to hold himself back a bit in the test matches. He took the foot off the accelerator in the Eden Park ODI, and immediately started to look a little more vulnerable. Good attacking players often do worse when they try to play a defensive game. How Root finds the balance between attack and defense could be vital to his success at this form of the game.|
12. Neil Wagner vs Matt Prior.
|Prior has a good record against left-arm pace bowlers, but he has shown a tendency to get out to bowlers who mix their pace up well. Wagner has dropped his pace a little in search of more swing, and since doing that has started to rediscover his form. He is still capable, however, of the odd ball that screams through as well as having a reasonable slower ball.|
|The thing that will work in Prior's favour is that his new technique is designed for pitches with less bounce, and the Dunedin wicket is likely to keep a bit low. If it starts to go up and down a bit, then Wagner might be the one with the weapons to dismiss Prior.|
There are bound to be other battles arising during the match, but these 12 will be some I'm watching for.
Here's a good preview (from before the toss) with a couple of the cricket writers from the NZ Herald. I got to spend a bit of time with David Leggat while in South Africa, and was quite impressed with his ability to read the game.