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Adapt or lose: Martin Guptill to lead the way for Black Caps in T20 World Cup opener


Martin Guptill will be the man in the middle for the Black Caps at some stage during their Twenty20 World Cup opener against Pakistan [first ball 3am Wednesday NZ time].

Whether they’re setting a target or chasing one in Sharjah, the veteran batsman will be charged with leading the way at the top of the order.

He’s been in good form in the Black Caps’ warm-up matches, making 30 off 20 against Australia and 41 off 20 against England.

Martin Guptill has been in good form for the Black Caps in their warm-up matches prior to the T20 World Cup.

PANKAJ NANGIA/Photosport

Martin Guptill has been in good form for the Black Caps in their warm-up matches prior to the T20 World Cup.

But dealing with the swing of left-armer Shaheen Shah Afridi – one of Pakistan’s stars in their opening 10-wicket win over India – in their Group 2 opener will present him with his toughest challenge in a while.

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Guptill hasn’t played international cricket since April and the Black Caps’ tournament opener will be his first international in the United Arab Emirates since 2014.

He did visit to play in the Pakistan Super League T20 competition earlier this year, but didn’t fire then, making 43 of his 69 runs in one of his six innings.

His record in the Middle East and Asia, where he averages 20 at a strike rate of 112, pales in comparison to his record elsewhere, where he averages 36 at a strike rate of 142, but that’s partly an indication of how tough the conditions are for visitors, and he’s as well-prepared for this World Cup as he’s ever been before.

“Obviously I would’ve liked to have gone better, but that’s all in the past now,” he said.

“At the last World Cup in India I was our top run scorer, so I can draw on that experience and that confidence that I have been able to do it before.

NZ Cricket

Former Black Cap Shane Bond has linked up with the team for the T20 World Cup in a role you might not expect.

“I’m looking forward to just going out and doing my thing and making sure that I’m just being as positive as I can be at the top of the order.”

That positivity is set to be especially crucial in Sharjah, where the conditions for batting are expected to be the toughest out of the three World Cup venues, on newly-laid pitches that have tended to be on the slow side.

Sri Lanka rode their luck in chasing down 172 against Bangladesh in a Group 1 match there on Sunday, but scores in the 120-140 range have been the norm in recent Indian Premier League matches, and making the most of the power play, while the ball is hard and the field is up, has been crucial.

Speaking before the Sri Lanka-Bangladesh match, Guptill said the Black Caps were “planning for a tough wicket”.

“But once we get there and have a wee look and see how it’s playing, we can play accordingly.

“First and foremost, you just have to go out and try to be as positive as possible, and if it’s not conducive to hitting big shots, it’s about looking to rotate, looking to get off strike, and putting the bad ball away when it comes and just being clinical like that in putting partnerships together.”

As one of the Black Caps’ openers, and one of the most-experienced players in their squad, Guptill will be charged with making an early assessment of the batting conditions, and he knows how important that could be.

“It’s the team that adapts quicker in the conditions that you’re in that’s going to win the game.”

No-one has hit more T20 sixes this year than Black Caps batsman Glenn Phillips.

Pakistan turned in the most impressive performance yet in the Super 12 phase of the World Cup when they restricted India to 151-7 then chased it down without losing a wicket and with more than two overs to spare.

Player of the match Shaheen Shah Afridi struck twice in the power play at Dubai International Cricket Stadium and finished with 3-31 from his four overs before captain Babar Azam and Mohammed Rizwan made unbeaten half-centuries to guide their side home.

It was Pakistan’s first win over India in 12 matches in men’s one-day or T20 World Cup and sets them up nicely in Group 2, which also features minnows Afghanistan, Namibia, and Scotland.

The Black Caps’ meeting with Pakistan at the World Cup comes after their abandonment of their tour there in September following a security threat, a decision which led many Pakistan players to voice their disappointment.

Black Caps – Twenty20 World Cup

Squad

Kane Williamson (c), Todd Astle, Trent Boult, Mark Chapman, Devon Conway, Lockie Ferguson, Martin Guptill, Kyle Jamieson, Daryl Mitchell, Jimmy Neesham, Glenn Phillips, Mitchell Santner, Tim Seifert, Ish Sodhi, Tim Southee,

Fixtures (NZ time)

Wednesday, October 27, 3am: v Pakistan, Sharjah

Monday, November 1, 3am: v India, Abu Dhabi

Wednesday, November 3, 11pm: v Scotland, Abu Dhabi

Friday, November 5, 11pm: v Namibia, Sharjah

Sunday, November 7, 11pm: v Afghanistan, Dubai



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