NAPIER: With unbeaten New Zealand having already qualified for the World Cup quarter-finals, attention is focusing on the side’s four players who have not appeared so far at the tournament.
Pace bowlers Mitchell McClenaghan and Kyle Mills, off-spinner Nathan McCullum and batsman Tom Latham have sat on the sidelines as coach Mike Hesson has kept faith with the same side who have rattled up four wins so far.
New Zealand face Afghanistan at Napier’s McLean Park on Sunday and local pundits have suggested it could be the ideal opportunity for the quartet to shake off any rustiness that could affect them if they are not called upon until the knockout phases.
None have played a competitive match in almost a month.
Opening bowler Tim Southee, however, said the quartet had been training hard and allayed any fears they would not slot seamlessly into the well-oiled machine that Hesson and McCullum have constructed.
“They’ve been brilliant. They’re training the house down, they’re bowling exceptionally well in the nets and they’re offering a lot,” said Southee, who is the leading wicket taker in the tournament with 13.
“Their heads are still up and they’re wanting what’s best for the team and their attitude and work ethic away from the game has been outstanding.
“They’re working very hard behind the scenes and just banging the door down, waiting for their chance.
“I’m sure when they get their chance, they’ll grab it with both hands and if it comes in a quarter-final or a semi-final then we know that they’re ready to go.”
Southee missed training on Wednesday with a fever but would take part in an optional session on Thursday, while captain McCullum had recovered from the nasty blow to his arm he received from Mitchell Johnson at Eden Park last Saturday.
McLean Park is the best batting surface in New Zealand and the short square boundaries put the balance of the match firmly in the batsmen’s favour.
Mills has said previously he is not keen on the short boundaries and flat wickets in places like Hamilton and Napier, while McClenaghan’s bounce off a length can be expensive square of the wicket if he gets it slightly wrong.
New Zealand finish their pool play action against Bangladesh in Hamilton on March 13. Reuters