West Indies vs New Zealand | 30 June | Lauderhill, Florida | 21:00
New Zealand embark on a tour of the United States and the Caribbean to play against the West Indies in a couple T20's, a one-day series and a two match test series. The T20's will be held in Florida, only the second time two international test playing nations will play cricket in America. The Black Caps were also involved the first time, when they played Sri Lanka here in 2010. The pitch is a strange one and this should be an interesting encounter between two of world cricket's underachievers.
The series is seen as an opportunity to bring the game to a country expressing interest in forming it's own T20 league as soon as next year, and with Florida having a large West Indian population, it is felt that there is a passion for the game here. In terms of New Zealand attracting a crowd I have no idea, but they drew a small one two years ago, and I do know that they have sold double the amount of tickets that were sold in 2010. They are expecting 10 000 people per match, and that is not a bad attendance in a country with little cricketing interest. Anyway, enough about the Yanks, let's have a look at the teams.
West Indies 13/20
New Zealand 12/10
The West Indies will be without the services of the Lara-like Darren Bravo, as he was sent home from England with a groin strain. Good news for the West Indians is that the world's most powerful T20 batsman Chris Gayle is in the squad as no one has managed to upset him too much as yet. He will be looking to draw a crowd in Florida with his swashbuckling strokeplay, and will also be hoping to deposit some balls amongst this crowd, as he prefers to deal in sixes rather than fours.
Uncapped leg-spinner Samuel Badree is included in the squad, and is an economical T20 spinner that looks to choke the opposition, a bit like Narine but less attacking. Andre Russell is out with an injury as well, but in Dwayne Smith and Kieron Pollard, the West Indies have cover for the hard-hitting all-rounder. Looking at this West Indian team, we all know what they are capable of doing. Whether they can keep their concentration and implement their plans effectively, remains to be seen.
The selectors have decided to rest New Zealand stalwart Brendon McCullum for the duration of the limited-overs segment of the tour. The reasoning behind this is player and fitness management ahead of a busy schedule, and therefore New Zealand will be weakened in the top order. However, McCullum's limited-overs strike rates are not what they used to be, and I believe this to be a good thing, especially with the Black Caps looking ahead to 2015.
James Franklin and Jesse Ryder will also be missing from the tour. It has been reported that Franklin is indeed in the Black Caps' future T20 plans, but they have instead opted to have him play the county T20 competition with Essex, to gain more experience. Again I feel this is a good move, especially with more pressing tasks than the West Indies ahead. Ryder continues to be ostracised for behavioural issues, and the fat thug deserves to be watching on a TV screen with beer in hand. The Black Caps will see these T20's as a perfect opportunity to gain the upper hand before travelling to the Caribbean, but should be wary of a West Indian side that is looking a little better with each passing match.
BEST: Top West Indian Batsman, Chris Gayle 5/2
On a pitch that 2 years ago looked to be difficult for batting, I see the more bullying batsmen getting runs here. The sheer strength of Chris Gayle and his ability to muscle almost anything for six should be a huge factor in this one. He showed beginnings of his destruction while in England, and I expect him to continue here.
VERDICT: West Indies 13/20
With more cricket under their belts recently and the propensity to be devastating if things come together for them, I'm going to call a West Indies victory here. New Zealand will suffer without Brendon McCullum at the top of the order or Jesse Ryder in the middle, and I simply don't see them having enough here. Cue jubilations for the West Indies and the odd yank.
Written by @IAMaverickWhite for @Hollywoodbets. Follow them both on Twitter and Facebook now!
Think we've got it wrong? Well leave your comments below and tell us how you think this one is going to play out.