Blackcaps vs Sri Lanka T20I Series Preview

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A World T20 tournament is looming on the horizon and Aotearoa's Blackcaps are in full planning and preparation mode with a T20 series vs Sri Lanka about to get underway. We know how the Blackcaps tend to ignore common sense with regards to planning and preparation, although based on the World Cup that doesn't seem to matter. World T20 offers another chance to catch the Blackcaps vibe in how they go about building a team that can contend for a World T20 title, starting in Sri Lanka.

The last time Aotearoa played T20 cricket was vs India over the summer in Aotearoa. From that squad, Kane Williamson, Doug Bracewell and Blair Tickner are absent from the squad to face Sri Lanka. That leaves room for Todd Astle, Tom Bruce and Seth Rance to come into the T20 squad and while Rance is always among the best bowlers in domestic cricket across any format, Bruce is the only inclusion that is genuinely warranted based on Super Smash antics.

Again, this isn't to suggest that Rance shouldn't be there as he still averaged 23.50/7.15rpo in last year's Super Smash. Ahead of Rance in wickets and with better averages in the Super Smash though, were lads like Matt Quinn (21.72avg/7.43rpo), Blair Tickner (15.93avg/7.72rpo) and Kyle Jamieson (12.77avg/7.33rpo). I'm not sure about the injury status of those chaps and Rance has a hefty experience advantage, while also owning a T20I average of 17.85. Rance didn't play a T20 in Aotearoa last summer, playing his last T20I in UAE last year and he will have to offer value to keep his place moving forward.

Astle played five games in the Super Smash, taking 2w @ 69avg/7.66rpo. Aste has no wickets in two T20I games and has conceded 10.25rpo in those outings. I can understand why Astle is in the squad as he's already in Sri Lanka and having an all-rounder leggy does offer value, based strictly off recent work though there is little reinforcing Astle's selection and he must perform to hold on to his spot.

Bruce on the other hand was 2nd in Super Smash runs, averaging 39.22 with a strike-rate of 157.58 to go with 128.40sr in T20I. Bruce has also been playing T20 cricket in England, for Surrey 2nd 11 where he hit scores of 10, 85, 16 and 22; the 85 came with Bruce opening the batting and cracking a 146.55sr.

Given all the delight around Will Young moving into the Test group over the summer, his absence should be highlighted as well. No one really talks about Young as a white ball batsman, although he was 4th in Super Smash runs with a strike-rate of 135.02. Young has a career strike-rate of 131.52 and along with Devon Conway (Wellington), Young is arguably the best batsman across all formats in Aotearoa. If that's good enough for Young to be next up for the Test team, I don't see why he shouldn't get the same pathway through the T20 team.

I also found it curious that NZC decided to highlight Trent Boult's absence alongside that of Williamson. Boult last played a T20I in February 2018 and there is zero need for Boult to play T20I cricket as long as he is getting good game time in various T20 competitions to maintain his skills etc. Boult should be in the World T20 squad as he operates with a T20I average of 21.18 and a T20 average of 27.32; among the best, if not the best T20 bowler Aotearoa has. Boult should be rested, he should be managed and he doesn't need to prove himself in these types of T20I series. As long as he is dabbling in T20 cricket for whatever franchise teams ahead of the World T20, all good.

The best performers from that series vs India were Daryl Mitchell with the ball and Tim Seifert with the bat. Scott Kuggeleijn took 1w in 3inns @ 103avg/10.47rpo in that series and he will need to offer more if he wants to hold on to his spot in the crowded seamer group, while I'm also curious as to what Mitchell Santner will offer. Santner and Mitchell both took 4w with Mitchell bowling less overs to take the overall top spot, so Santner has that to build upon but is in a precarious position.

Part of Santner's automatic Blackcaps selection regime has been his work with the white ball, especially T20I which is his best international format and general format. Santner averages 21.14 in T20I cricket and if he can sustain that level of T20 bowling for Aotearoa, he'll be a certainty for the World T20. The funk here though comes as Santner has struggled to do that job in ODI and Test cricket recently, hence I'm intrigued as to how Santner responds in T20I cricket.

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Peace and love 27.