Sterner test awaits Kiwi batsmen

Published: Friday, January 21, 2005, 23:53 [IST]
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Christchurch:How New Zealand fare in the One-day cricket series against a World XI starting here on Saturday will depend on 20 crucial overs when the world's most successful bowlers -- Shane Warne and Muttiah Muralitharan -- team up for the first time.

Warne and Muralitharan, the past and present World Test wicket record holders, have a total of 1,098 Test wickets and a further 662 One-day International victims between them.

"It's a huge challenge for us. How we deal with them will probably determine whether we win the games," New Zealand's Daniel Vettori said of the dynamic spin duo.

"It's going to be 20 very tough overs and we have to find a way to play them."

The thought of Warne and Muralitharan teaming up is almost beyond comprehension for most international batsmen, who have struggled enough with just one at a time.

"Your first six balls against those guys are pretty crucial because that's when they go in for the kill and they can really do the damage early on," said Vettori, who partnered Warne in a charity match in Melbourne last week to raise money for the Asian tsunami relief effort.

The Federation of International Cricketers' Associations (FICA) and New Zealand Cricket who assembled the star-studded World XI for the three-match series hope to raise one million New Zealand dollars (698,000 US) for the fund.

Vettori's eyes still glaze over when he recounts his experience of teaming up with Warne in Melbourne last week.

"I found it enthralling the way he attacks the game," the New Zealand spinner said.

"People respect the fact he's a great spin artist but people don't know how much he thinks about it and looks at different players. He's got a great memory of how he's got people out in the past."

The main focus in the New Zealand camp was how to limit the damage when Warne and Muralitharan team up, likely between overs 15 and 35.

In the past, survival has been the prime instinct for New Zealand against either of the bowlers, but now there is double trouble it won't do to block for 20 overs.

"You need your defence in order so you can survive the first three or four balls, then you look to where your single options are," Vettori said.

"In our team the boundaries normally take care of themselves, we just have to find ways of ticking the strike over."

Chris Cairns will have a big role to play, and going by hints from coach John Bracewell this week, will be used as a batting floater to try to break the spinners up.

Cairns has tasted success against Warne before, while in Melbourne last week he smashed Muralitharan over the wide mid-wicket boundary on his way to 69 off 47 balls before being fooled by the infamous doosra which spins the other way.

Other stars of the World XI include Australians Justin Langer and Ian Harvey, Sri Lankans Sanath Jayasuirya, Chaminda Vaas and Kumar Sangakkara, South Africans Jonty Rhodes and Lance Klusener, and Graeme Hick and Nick Knight from England.

New Zealand will be without key all-rounder Jacob Oram who has been ruled out with a back strain, opening the way for double All Black Jeff Wilson to make his international comeback.

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