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New Zealand look to spin past Zimbabwe

New Zealand opening batsman Martin Guptill has spent most of the time in the nets facing spinners for the last few days. Abhijeet Kulkarni reports.

cricket Updated: Mar 04, 2011 15:11 IST
Abhijeet Kulkarni

New Zealand opening batsman Martin Guptill has spent most of the time in the nets facing spinners for the last few days. And so are all the other top order batsmen, who are normally used to facing a lot of pace bowlers in the nets.
But the conditions are different this time with the Black Caps preparing for an overdose of spin in their next encounter against Zimbabwe on Friday. And Daniel Vettori's men have not come out with flying colours against slow bowlers in the past.

The last time they faced a spin-heavy attack in the sub-continent, they suffered the ignominy of losing all their four completed games in Bangladesh; they even struggled against the part timers in their 5-0 series loss in India soon after that, late last year.

On Friday, the Kiwis are expected to face a bowling attack that could send down almost 40 overs of spin in a must win-game, to assure themselves of a berth in the quarterfinals. The tournament format is such that the four-time semifinalists can make it to the last eight even by just winning their games against Kenya, Canada and Zimbabwe. And New Zealand would not want any slip up here.

“It is a must win game for us in the context of the tournament,” said Vettori. “Zimbabwe are actually playing pretty well. We haven't seen them for a long time. Australia attacked us with pace and they will have spin. It will be a challenge.”
Zimbabwe had gone into their earlier two games with just one specialist seamer, Christopher Mpofu, and four specialist spinners. Mpofu is struggling with a side strain, and though he is expected to play on Friday, there are doubts over whether he would be able to bowl his full quota of overs.

Left arm spinner Ray Price, who has been sharing the new ball with Mpofu, admitted the team was short on quality when it came to fast bowlers and was hence relying on their spin strength. Zimbabwe also know that they will have to beat one of the top four Test playing nations to stake a claim to the quarterfinal berth and New Zealand presents them with the best opportunity so far.

Both teams had contrasting fortunes coming into the game with Australia thrashing the Black Caps in their last game by seven wickets and Zimbabwe recording a 175-run victory over Canada.