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Cricket news - NZ aim to make most of last series before WC

Matt Henry looks certain to be picked over Southee to partner Boult.

New Zealand's three-match ODI series against Bangladesh will be their last bilateral assignment before the all-important World Cup in England, which effectively gives them five games, including two practice games against India and Windies in May, before their opening clash against Sri Lanka in Cardiff. And even though they have never lost an ODI to Bangladesh at home, the 4-1 series loss to India has the hosts sweating enough.

They are yet to sort out their opening conundrum. Colin Munro hasn't quite cracked the ODI batting code, something that's never been more obvious than against India, and so Henry Nicholls will continue at the top and hope to make the most of the opportunities. He will have a fit-again Martin Guptill to open the batting with for only the second time. That Guptill endured an average series against India, scoring 47 runs across four innings, heats things up further at the top.

The series can be a good barometer for the visitors' bowling unit too, who can assess their performance against New Zealand's top order, which India had on the mat. Bangladesh are almost never underdogs nowadays, but their coach Steve Rhodes insists that they are that on this tour of New Zealand, given the pressure of a winless record in the country on four previous tours, that has been made worse by the injury-spurred absence of Shakib Al Hasan.

The all-rounder not being a part of the side will affect Bangladesh's preparation, given how flat pitches in New Zealand can be - the best mimic for even flatter England tracks, but it's a good thing that they have more games at their disposal. Bangladesh play a tri-series against Windies and Ireland before their two World Cup practice games against Pakistan and India.

Expect a hard-fought series. There are more victories to take home than just the trophy, and it all starts with the first ODI.

When: Wednesday, February 13, 2019 at 02:00 PM LOCAL/ 01:00 AM GMT / 6:30 AM IST

Where: McLean Park, Napier

What to expect: There's no rain predicted. Expect the pitch to be flat but there was some nip available early on for Mohammed Shami here in the last ODI played here, while Tim Southee and Trent Boult were without a wicket against a powerful Indian top order.


New Zealand

Can they pick early wickets? It all comes down to that. Matt Henry looks certain to be picked over Southee to partner Boult. Guptill is almost certain to play after missing the T20I series against India with a back injury but he'll have to get through a fitness test on the morning of the match before resuming his newly-formed opening combination with Nicholls. Worth reminding that Colin Munro has been dropped for the first two ODIs, and only comes as a replacement in the third ODI for Kane Williamson.

Probable XI: Martin Guptill, Henry Nicholls, Kane Williamson (c), Ross Taylor, Tom Latham (wk), James Neesham, Mitchell Santner, Todd Astle, Matt Henry, Lockie Ferguson, Trent Boult


Shakib's absence means Bangladesh have an all-rounder's spot to tend to. Sabbir Rahman is returning from his ban, that was reduced amidst much debate. Mushfiqur Rahim and Mahmudullah scored fifties in Bangladesh's two-wicket loss in the warm-up, and hold key to their batting. Tamim Iqbal, coming off a belligerent innings of 141* in the BPL final, makes for another important cog in the batting wheel.

Probable XI: Tamim Iqbal, Liton Das, Soumya Sarkar, Mushfiqur Rahim(wk), Mohammad Mithun, Mahmudullah, Sabbir Rahman, Mohammad Saifuddin, Mashrafe Mortaza (c), Mehidy Hasan, Mustafizur Rahman

What they said:

"We quite like being underdogs. We can surprise a few people being an underdog and I think New Zealand know they've still got to play some very good cricket to beat us." - Bangladesh coach Steve Rhodes.

"We had some interesting surfaces to go out and bat on [against India]. The one here [in Napier] wasn't as hard and fast as we thought it was going to be. We didn't adapt well enough up front." - Martin Guptill on what New Zealand can do better.

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