x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Black Caps go for spin

New Zealand are likely to employ two spinners in the second Test against India with Jeetan Patel favoured to replace Kyle Mills in Napier.

New Zealand are likely to employ two spinners in the second Test against India with Jeetan Patel favoured to replace Kyle Mills in Napier. The Black Caps captain Daniel Vettori hinted at the change a day before the start at McLean Park, but said a final decision would be revealed at the toss on Thursday. Patel, who was born in Wellington to Indian parents, has had a sporadic Test career since making his debut against South Africa in Cape Town in April 2006. Since then he has gone on to play two more Tests in Bangladesh and three at home - two in Napier and one in Hamilton. Napier has been a happy hunting ground for the 28-year-old who took a career best five for 110 against West Indies in December. The pairing of Patel and Vettori has traditionally worked well for New Zealand and the skipper will be hoping that can continue against the star-studded line-up of Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman, who had no difficulty getting on top of Mills in Hamilton.

India look set to stick with the same XI that trounced the Black Caps in the opening Test, but the captain MS Dhoni, who is not expecting any changes to India's starting XI, acknowledged their approach would change slightly if Patel was brought in at the expense of Mills. "Our players are good players of spin bowling. It will be important for them (New Zealand) to bowl consistently in the middle overs especially if the ball doesn't do much for the seamers," said Dhoni. "We won't be too relaxed about playing their spin. We will be at our best and focused to our best potential and play each and every delivery on its merits." Dhoni was also confident that despite their emphatic 10-wicket win in the previous match there would be no complacency creeping into his squad as they go in search of their first Test series win on New Zealand soil since 1968. "We think about the small steps rather than having a look at what we want to achieve in the long term," he explained. "We want to achieve the small milestones and the long-term results will take care of themselves. "We think about the series and we break the series into games and every game is a different game for us and we start from scratch. It's always the small step that's important for our side." There has been much talk about the pitch at McLean Park after reports the groundsman Phil Stoyanoff had been forced to move the strip because of a fungal infection. While Mr Stoyanoff confirmed the new pitch would include half of the original pitch and half of the adjacent one he strenuously denied there had been a fungal infection. The new wicket is now a mixture of the pitch used for the Test against West Indies in December and the recent one-day international against India. "Any of this mythical talk about slime outbreak on the wicket, or algae or the fungal attack, is a lot of rubbish," Stoyanoff told reporters. "I top-dressed this and I just didn't get quite the grass growth that I wanted. So I moved the track over to the right hand side." Vettori added: "Aesthetically it's not quite as pretty as it normally is, and doesn't have that consistency of grass cover. "But talking to Phil, he is pretty comfortable and thinks it will be a pretty traditional Napier track." *PA Sport