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Openers On Notice To Find Form

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Openers On Notice To Find Form

By Chris Barclay of NZPA

Colombo, Aug 11 NZPA - New Zealand's final tune-up before a two-test cricket series against Sri Lanka plays out to a familiar theme, with the batsmen again under pressure to construct a solid platform.

While Daniel Flynn, Ross Taylor and Jesse Ryder produced encouraging innings during New Zealand's first tour match in Colombo last weekend, incumbent test openers Tim McIntosh and Martin Guptill are on notice to provide substantial knocks against a Sri Lankan Development 11 after contributing just 27 in the tour opener.

Craig Cumming's non-involvement in the three-day match starting at Nondescripts Cricket Club here tomorrow means the pressure is off the Auckland duo in one regard because their three test old partnership at the top of the order will be persevered with for the first international at Galle starting next Tuesday.

But with coach Andy Moles yearning for his top three to occupy the crease for a minimum of 40 overs McIntosh and Guptill have been instructed to bat for time.

McIntosh made 21 and Guptill six among New Zealand's only innings on tour to date, an otherwise solid 493.

"We just need Tim and Martin to come into some form," captain Daniel Vettori said before the team underwent a strenuous four-hour workout at the match venue today.

The fact Vettori topscored with 106 batting at No 8 in the draw the first local selection might appear ominous, although he was quick to praise Flynn's contribution of 75.

Flynn had not batted since the third test against India in Wellington in early April -- and never before on the subcontinent -- so he epitomised the value of New Zealand's first outing.

Taylor's fluent 93, Ryder's 48 and a typically free-flowing 78 from Brendon McCullum also suggested they were making the transition from the Twenty20 format although Vettori acknowledged the opposition's quality was variable.

He hoped tomorrow's invitation 11 might be stronger, although with the Sri Lankan A team currently hosting their Pakistan equivalents in a test series it seems unlikely.

New Zealand are destined to make only one change to their 11 tomorrow, with seamer Iain O'Brien having the opportunity to protect his second seamer's spot from a resurrected Daryl Tuffey.

Playing his first match for New Zealand since the 2007 World Cup, Tuffey took three for 41 and nine for 22 in the tour opener.

O'Brien has recently been an automatic choice to bowl into the elements at the Basin Reserve in Wellington and although humidity -- not a howling wind -- is the energy-sapping factor here, O'Brien retains Vettori's faith.

"Iain's bowled pretty well for us for a long time," said Vettori, adding his workhorse missed the tour opener because of his exertions on the English county circuit.

O'Brien was the standout bowler for Leicestershire, leading the wicket-taking statistics in the four-day and one-day competitions until he joined the New Zealand squad last week.

He took 19 wickets at an average of 22.68 in five four-day matches and a half dozen at 29.83 in the one-dayers.

"He's done really well for them and that's good for us that guys can go away and perform in all competitions. Now we hope he can replicate that form," Vettori said.

Tuffey's return from international and Indian Cricket League exile had also been pleasing.

There is evidence he is placing pressure on Chris Martin and O'Brien while Shane Bond's return is also imminent, fitness willing.

"It's nice to know competition is building (among the fast bowlers," Vettori said.

New Zealand: Daniel Vettori (captain), Tim McIntosh, Martin Guptill, Daniel Flynn, Ross Taylor, Jesse Ryder, Jacob Oram, Brendon McCullum, Jeetan Patel, Iain O'Brien, Chris Martin.


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