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New Zealand should overcome rustiness

The Kiwis must overcome a long layoff and hope its injury prone stars stay fit to repeat their 2000 victory in the Champions Trophy this year.

india Updated: Oct 09, 2006 14:22 IST

New Zealand has to overcome a long layoff and hope its injury prone stars stay fit if they want to repeat their 2000 victory in the Champions Trophy.

The victory in the 2000 tournament, then known as the ICC Knockout, was due in large part to an unbeaten century by allrounder Chris Cairns in the final against India in Nairobi.

Cairns retired this year and captain Stephen Fleming will be looking for big contributions from his more experienced players to rediscover the form of 2000.

The team has not played a one-day match together since beating the West Indies 4-1 in a home series which ended in early March.

Several of the key players are returning from injury, including world class speedster Shane Bond, wily left arm spinner Daniel Vettori and pace bowler Kyle Mills.

All rounder Jacob Oram is also returning from a series of career-interrupting injuries.

Scott Styris, also a valuable batting allrounder in the one-day game, has the biggest question mark hanging over him after suffering a back injury playing for English county Middlesex last month.

Team manager Lindsay Crocker said Styris would be monitored up to the team's departure for India.

Despite the long lay-off for the team since a test series against South Africa in May, several of the players have been playing English county cricket to keep their hand in.

The Champions Trophy is the start of a long season dominated by one-day matches and culminating in the World Cup in the West Indies starting in March.

New Zealand is sticking with tried and tested campaigners for the trophy, with Wellington pace bowler Mark Gillespie the only newcomer in the side.

Gillespie had shown the ability to swing the ball both ways and offers another option for bowling in the crucial final overs of each innings, coach John Bracewell said when naming the team.

"In the day/night games in India the ball's likely to swing and the teams that we're playing against early on in the tournament have, we feel, weaknesses in the areas where he can contribute," Bracewell said.

New Zealand greatest weakness in recent seasons has been a fragile batting top order.

But Bracewell has been heartened by the good form shown in English county cricket by batsmen such as Lou Vincent and Hamish Marshall, who were among those who struggled last season.

Marshall could average only 17.43 from 18 one-day innings during the last New Zealand summer season but has performed well for Goucestershire over the northern summer, averaging just under 61.

"We are confident he will deliver on the faith we have shown in him," Bracewell said.

New Zealand is ranked fourth in the international one day rankings behind Australia, South Africa and Pakistan. Under Fleming, New Zealand has made the most of their limited resources in the shorter form of the game compared to Test cricket, where they are ranked seventh.

New Zealand's opening match at the Champions Trophy is against South Africa on October 15.

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