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Frank review of Black Caps batting strategy

Published: 7:28AM Sunday September 23, 2012 Source: Fairfax

Rob Nicol might replace James Franklin at the top of New Zealand's batting order for tonight's second Group D clash, against Pakistan.

Franklin was promoted to open in the Black Caps' Twenty20 World Cup-opener against Bangladesh, in a move designed to combat their array of left-armer spinners.

The plan was an unqualified success, as New Zealand won by 59 runs after posting an imposing total of 191 for three.

But Pakistan are a far more dangerous and balanced team, Black Caps captain Ross Taylor said.

"It's not a certainty that James Franklin will open the batting," Taylor said after the Bangladesh game at the Pallekele International Cricket Stadium.

"It's a totally different bowling attack and different areas where their strengths lie so we may feel that Frank is needed in the middle order and [that] they may bowl a lot of seam up front."

Nicol was named to bat at five against Bangladesh but is an opener by trade and seen as being more capable than Franklin in the face of the quick stuff.

Franklin is also a player who likes to nudge the ball around and there is a belief that although this was a good tactic against Bangladesh, New Zealand might have to go harder at the start of their innings against "tier one" teams such as Pakistan.

Having said that, it wouldn't be a massive shock to still see Franklin walking out to open with Martin Guptill tonight.

Taylor felt that planning had been critical to the successful result over Bangladesh. New coach Mike Hesson has been credited with bringing more analysis to the Black Caps' preparation, and that thinking was evident on Friday night.

Also visible was Brendon McCullum's form. After coming in at 19 for one, McCullum was dismissed off the last ball of the innings, having helped himself to 123 runs off just 58 balls.

He was involved in partnerships of 94 with Franklin and then 78 with his skipper.

"Outstanding. It took a lot of pressure off me," Taylor said of McCullum's contribution.

As much as McCullum might like to, he can't be expected to play that well again tonight. That means Guptill and Taylor, in particular, need to take up the slack.

They're the other two top-drawer talents in this batting lineup and can't just look to hit singles tonight and say "over to you, Brendon".

In the field, New Zealand were pretty good against Bangladesh. There were a couple of ragged moments and both Jacob Oram and Kyle Mills copped some stick from the Bangladeshi tail.

But Tim Southee made an encouraging return, considering he'd been in hospital earlier in the week. He took three for 16 and his ability to shape the ball should be an asset tonight, given the propensity of Pakistan's batsmen, such as Shahid Afridi, to stand and deliver.

Nathan McCullum was another to shine with the ball. The offspinner is quick through the air, rather than a turner of the ball, and the skiddy nature of the Pallekele pitch suited him.

Black Caps v Pakistan: How it stacks up

What: Twenty20 World Cup Group D match between New Zealand and Pakistan

When: 10pm tonight (NZT), at Pallekele Stadium

Pakistan dangermen

Saeed Ajmal: The offspinner is just about the most dangerous bowler in international cricket right now. His ability to take the ball away from the right-handers will be a concern to the Black Caps and make it more difficult for Brendon McCullum to dance down the wicket, like he did against Bangladesh.

Shahid Afridi: Still the barometer of Pakistan's form. If he's on, they're on and hugely dangerous as a result. His quick legspinners tend to be more reliable than his batting now, but he's still eminently capable of smashing 50 from 20 balls.

Asad Shafiq: This Pakistan team lacks the real world-class batsmen of previous ones but Shafiq is probably the best of their emerging players. Definitely a player to watch in the years ahead.

Key to victory

Sounds funny but fielding might hold the key for the Black Caps. It's hard to see them mustering more than 160 against Pakistan's attack, so building pressure in the field and stopping everything could be a real asset.

The ground-fielding of the sub-continent teams remains poor and it's an area where New Zealand hold a clear advantage.