Expect another close game at Auckland

05 Mar 2010 by Mahendra Prasad in Australia Vs New Zealand ODI Series 2010

Mitchell Johnson Scott StyrisThe Chappel-Hadlee series between the Trans-Tasman rivals has invariably produced thrilling cricket. And if the opening ODI at Napier was anything to go by, there is another humdinger of a series in store. The game on Wednesday went down to the wire, with a gritty lower-order effort by all-rounder Scott Styris making a difference in a rather tense atmosphere. The fact that the usually reticent Mitchell Johnson got into mortal kombat mode to take on Styris is ample evidence of what this series means to the Australians. But, they will need to do better than that to square the series at Eden Park, Auckland.

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Although the visitors ended up on the losing side in the opener, there really wasn’t too much to choose between the two teams. And hence, all they must look to do is put up an improved batting as well as bowling performance, with the latter being more important. Luckily, they do not have any injury worries at the present moment.

Openers Shane Watson and Brad Haddin are in supreme form while the skipper himself can be expected to perform to keep his side in the hunt in this prestigious rivalry. The Aussie middle-order is as strong as any in the world today, with the classy Michael Clarke and suave Michael Hussey ably backed by the big hitting of Cameron White and James Hopes. What’s more, all of them have been among the runs lately, scoring heavily at that.

The Australian bowling suffered at the hands of Ross Taylor and co in Napier, but expect them to fight back strongly at Auckland. Mitchell Johnson won’t get a warm reception at the venue following his run-in with Styris. However, he shouldn’t mind it if crucial wickets come his way. Ryan Harris will find it difficult to repeat his heroics against Pakistan, but even if he is half as effective, the Aussies will be benefited amply. Doug Bollinger and Clint McKay have impressed more often than not whenever given the responsibility and whoever plays at Auckland will be expected to do the same. Ditto with Nathan Hauritz, who is slowly settling into his job as the side’s frontline spinner.

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Unlike the Aussies, the Kiwis have a few injury worries, which will give them headaches despite the 1-0 lead, none more troublesome than the painful neck of their effervescent skipper Daniel Vettori. If the left-arm spinner doesn’t play, it would mean than Taylor will have to continue leading the team. And although, he did an admirable job in the opening encounter, the home side would want Vettori to be back as soon as possible, considering he has an impressive record against the number one ODI side in the world.

All-rounder Jacob Oram is another one on the hurt list. A tear of the patella tendon has ruled him out for one month which means additional responsibility on the seniors like Brendon McCullum and Taylor. Among the bowlers, spearhead Shane Bond will have to stand up and be counted once again.
The small ground means another high-scoring game is on the cards, but it should be a tight contest nonetheless.

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