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Hesson close to deciding NZ starting XI for World Cup opener

February 12, 2015

CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand (AP) — Mike Hesson is close to finalizing his New Zealand starting XI for Saturday’s Cricket World Cup opener against Sri Lanka — not that anyone outside the squad will find out what the combination is.

He gave no insights into his likely selection but said it would be influenced by an assessment Friday of pitch conditions.

“We’ll get down to the ground, have a pretty good look at it and likely name things tomorrow afternoon to the players,” Hesson said. “But we’ll probably keep things pretty close to our chest. We don’t want to give too much away to our opposition at this stage.”

Hesson said all 15 members of his squad are fit and available, noting that New Zealand has largely avoided injuries during an intense buildup comprising seven limited-overs internationals against Sri Lanka, two against Pakistan and informal warm-ups against Zimbabwe and South Africa.

Pitch conditions at Hagley Oval are more likely to influence the composition of the New Zealand bowling attack than the batting lineup

Martin Guptill, Brendon McCullum, Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor, Grant Elliott and Corey Anderson will likely take the six batting places — Anderson as an allrounder — with wicketkeeper Luke Ronchi at No. 7. Daniel Vettori may get the nod at No. 8 ahead of Nathan McCullum, then Tim Southee, Trent Boult and Kyle Mills may form the seam attack.

“All 15 are fine,” Hesson said. “All got through the warm-up games, though the one against Zimbabwe was washed out so we didn’t get as much opportunity there as we would have liked.

“But we’ve played plenty of cricket over the last month and we’re as prepared as we can be but we realize that come Saturday we all start from scratch.”

Hesson said he was “very pleased’ with New Zealand’s preparations, saying the series against Sri Lanka — won 4-2 — and against Pakistan — won 2-0 — had been topped off by its 134-run win over South Africa at Hagley Oval on Wednesday.

“The way the warm-up games went just tidied things up nicely,” he said. The game against South Africa “was a very complete performance against a very good side. It was a warm-up game and probably didn’t have the intensity at times of a fully-fledged match but I thought the way we kept our standards and brought our intensity to the game we were very pleased with the way we went about it.”

New Zealand’s confidence is high but Hesson said his players were taking nothing for granted ahead of the event they’re co-hosting with Australia for the first time since 1992.

“Sure, the confidence that we’ve got holds us in good shape but we realize that we’ve still got plenty of cricket ahead of us,” he said. “It’s exciting. I still remember (’92) vividly. Some of our players have only seen highlights because they’re a bit younger. But it’s huge. We’ve been building up to this for a number of years and, as I said, come Saturday we’ve got to hit the ground running.”

New Zealand’s confidence for the tournament was further boosted on Wednesday by the selection of captain Brendon McCullum as New Zealand’s Sportsman of the Year. McCullum was recognized for his stellar performances in 2014 in which he became the first New Zealander to score a test triple century and scored more runs than any New Zealand batsman in a calendar year.

“The guys are proud, very proud that one of the Black Caps has been able to represent them in such esteemed company,” Hesson said. “Brendon had an outstanding 2014 and for it to be recognized last night we’re all very proud of him.”

All that was left, Hesson said, was to turn New Zealand’s recent good form into consistent World Cup performances.

“We’ve prepared really well, we’re playing good cricket but I think we realize if we’re good enough to make the knockout stage any team can beat any other team on their day,” he said. “Hopefully it’s going to be us but we’re definitely preparing to go as deep into the tournament as we can.”

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