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April 26, 2010 | by  | in Opinion |
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The reverse sweep

The 2010 Twenty20 World Cup gets underway in the West Indies this Saturday (New Zealand time), and the Black Caps are well in contention. One of the appealing aspects of the shortest form of the game is the fact that anyone can win. Hence, while you would expect the big guns to make their mark, there are no guarantees.

Significantly, there are four pools of just three teams apiece. With each team only having two pool matches to stake their claim for a finals spot, a single loss could be a critical blow.

The Black Caps kick off their campaign in the opening game of the cup against Sri Lanka at 5am in Guyana, following warm-up matches against Ireland at 5.30am on Wednesday and the West Indies at 9am on Thursday. The warm-up games will offer the Kiwis an opportunity to get a feel for the conditions and to reform team bonds, while the Sri Lankans will provide a real test for our cup chances.

The Black Caps will have to deal with a number of IPL stars in the opener, such as world-class batsmen Kumar Sangakarra, Mahela Jayawardene and Tillikaratne Dilshan, as well as crafty paceman Lasith ‘Slinga’ Malinga and the ever wily Muttiah Muralitharan. The Kiwis do, however, have batsmen to match in the forms of the prolific Ross Taylor and Brendon McCullum, as well as the all-round talents of Captain Fantastic Daniel Vettori.

While Sri Lanka will be an immense challenge to kick off against, New Zealand should (hopefully) have the edge over Zimbabwe, in a match that could decide our fate, next Wednesday from 1.30am.

The TAB has Australia and India as joint favourites at $4.50, with the Black Caps fifth favourites at $8. However, Twenty20 is such a difficult game to pick, and no team—with perhaps the exception of rookies Afghanistan ($750)—can be ruled out. Defending champions Pakistan are paying a very generous $9 to win—odds which certainly make them the value bet, despite star Twenty20 bowler Umar Gul having been ruled out.

The Black Caps will be sweating on the fitness of big-hitting allrounders Jacob Oram (knee) and Jesse Ryder (abdominal), as the squad gets finalised for battle. The injury-prone stars will be a huge asset to the side if fit, especially with the small boundaries in the Caribbean.

Whether or not our Black Caps perform well, the fast-paced, competitive nature of the Twenty20 game will undoubtedly keep the fans enthralled throughout
the cup.

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