Friday Frills - How Do You Like Your Cricket?

Poppin

The Decider, BLACKCAPS vs Pakistan, it goes without saying that it's poppin. I love deciders, everything is more intense, bowlers face greater pressure to execute their plans and batsmen have to be a wee bit more calculated with their shots, as calculated as you can be in T20 cricket. 

It all comes to a climax in Wellington tonight and while the main goal must be a win to snatch the series, there's also the wider context of the World T20 lurking in the shadows. Here's a few storylines to keep an eye out for with the World T20 in mind...

Todd Astle has been unable to make his mark so far, a key performance in a series decider could swing things in his favour. Keep in mind that Nathan McCullum has returned from injury and will be playing for Otago this weekend in the Ford Trophy finals.

Breaking records and scoring lots of runs right now is nice, yet I'm weary that Martin Guptill and Colin Munro may not take this form with them to India. Timely knocks in the decider could help ease my fears.

We've seen a mixed bag from the bowlers so far and you'd have to assume that the strongest bowling attack will be selected tonight. Our batting line up is settled, so settled that there are options that can be taken on the fly while we haven't quite seen what our best bowling attack looks like. Adam Milne, Mitchell McClenaghan and Mitchell Santner are the only certainties for me.

Corey Anderson's return to the BLACKCAPS in four T20s looks like this: 2, didn't bat/bowl, 0/18 and 0, 1/26. It would be rude to doubt Anderson, especially as he's easing his way back into this team, however there's depth and Anderson needs to start offering value.

A quick word on Pakistan as Ross Taylor has them as World T20 favourites or one of, along with maybe India and Australia? Any way, Pakistan look awesome, as if they've put a lot of thought and effort into their T20 cricket, well in Auckland they did as Hamilton's game saw them drop their standards a wee bit. What will they offer in Wellington? 

Two Pakistanis to keep an eye on are Mohammad Amir and Ahmed Shehzad. Amir has had a low key return to international cricket taking 1/31 and 0/34, which has me picking that he'll break the shackles tonight. As for Shehzad? We have seen glimpses of what Pakistan's Virat Kohli (note to Pakistan and Indian folk - don't hate me, please) can do, we just haven't seen Shehzad take the game away from the kiwis like Shahid Afirid did. Shehzad can do it and his wicket, along with that of Mohammad Hafeez a the top of the order will be crucial.

Usman Khawaja got things poppin for the Sydney Thunder in their finals win over Adelaide with his second century of the Big Bash, scoring 104 off 59 balls, 104 of the required 160 runs. The funk here is that Canterbury's Henry Nicholls played a crucial supporting role as he hit 35 off 27 after both Shane Watson (7 off 8) and Michael Hussey (11 off 13) were dimissed cheaply.

Nicholls looked a bit like a fish out of water in his first Big Bash game last week, however he's eased into his work nicely and while it would be great to see Jacques Kallis return from injury, I want to see Nicholls taste glory with the Thunder.

Melbourne Stars face Perth tonight, there's no kiwis in that though so meh.

There's kiwis in the Women's Big Bash, unfortunately though yesterday's semi-final between the Thunder and Perth Scorchers saw Suzie Bates and the Scorchers come up short. Bates took 1/22 off her 4 overs and then hit 11 off 25 as Perth could only manage 110 chasing 119. Sad face.

We'll get our kiwi fix though with Amy Satterthwaite's Hobart Hurricanes taking on Sara McGlashan's Sydney Sixers tonight, which means we're guaranteed a kiwi in the final. Chur, poppin, yey.

You wanted more cricket? Yeah, I've got that as the Ford Trophy finals go down tomorrow with Canterbury hosting Central Districts and Otago hosting Auckland in Invercargill. All four teams look sharp and have their own crop of talented players so trying to pick winners is tough, I'm going with CD and Otago (as I explain here). What's poppin about the Ford Trophy finals though is how easy it is for y'all to go catch some high quality cricket if you're in Christchurch or Invercargill, get along and support domestic cricket.

Hockey in India is up there with cricket in India, which is great for us because it means that the Hockey India League exists, offering our hockey players an experience like no other. Previous years have seen kiwis spread throughout the various teams, however this year there's just Black Sticks skipper Simon Child, Steve Edwards and goalie Devon Manchester lacing up for Delhi Waveriders. It's a bummer that there aren't more kiwis, it does make things easy though as there's only one team to support!

Delhi beat Punjab Warriors 5-4 in their opening game and their next game is on Saturday against Uttar Pradesh, apparently these games are all on Sky Sports which is cool.

Joseph Parker's fighting in Samoa, which is exceptionally poppin for Parker, his family and the local people. In 6-12 months we have seen how much the people of the Pacific appreciate kiwis when they are nice enough to take sporting events to the islands (pity it's only been Samoa) and in my mind this should happen way more often.

Big ups to Jamie Joseph, who is off to coach Japan. Spread your wings mate.

Sloppy

Parker gets the ol' poppin/sloppy double dose as I really couldn't care about this fight, besides the Samoan feel good factor.

NZ Breakers - WTF is doing!? Going down to Townsville in Townsville 89-66 in a performance that is the definition of sloppy.

Our Wellington Phoenix are living in the sloppy category - going blow for blow with the Breakers in a sloppy-scrap - thanks to a string of mediocre performances. The Nix are in action on Monday night, away to Melbourne City so put it in your diary as the Nix desperately need a win.

I love Connor McGregor, like he's my UFC guy right now, I just can't help but sigh when I hear him talking up an absolute storm in press confereneces. Yeah, I know he's selling the fight and just generally being himself; excuse me while I zone out, wake me up for the fight. 

Funky