'It looked like the Lockie of old': Black Caps quick tipped to return for T20 World Cup opener – Stuff

The Black Caps look set to unleash speedster Lockie Ferguson on Australia in Saturday’s T20 World Cup opener.
New Zealand’s World Cup contingent touched down in Brisbane on Saturday, following Friday’s five wicket loss to Pakistan in the T20 tri-series final in Christchurch.
Ferguson, New Zealand’s fastest bowler, sat out the week-long series at Hagley Oval with a minor abdominal injury. Head coach Gary Stead indicated Ferguson should be available for a mouth-watering clash against the reigning T20 World Cup champions at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
Stead expected Ferguson to bowl in the side’s two warm-up matches in Brisbane against South Africa on Monday and India on Wednesday.
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“He’s definitely on track for the SCG. He bowled really well when we had a session out in the middle before [Friday’s final] and we’re excited where he was at, so really pleased with how he’s coming along.
“He was right up at the level three level, which is as high as you can get, and it looked like the Lockie of old.”
Ferguson’s extra pace would be a boost against Australia’s talented top order as they look to start the tournament strongly. The 31-year-old showed his class in this year’s Indian Premier League, being a key member of the title-winning Gujarat Titans team, who claimed the silverware in their first season.
Stead confirmed there were no injury concerns with fellow quick Adam Milne, who departed after two overs last Sunday against Bangladesh, but returned against the same opponent on Wednesday, taking 3-24.
Injured batter Daryl Mitchell, who fractured his finger at training on the eve of the tri-series, travelled with the team to Australia and could return in the early group matches. He was unlikely for the Australian opener, but might be an option after that.
“It will be touch and go for that [Australian] game, but we’re hopeful after that. The advice we’ve been given with Daryl is to try and hold off batting for as long as you can.”
Left-arm spinner Mitchell Santner sat out the end of the tri-series with a knee niggle, but Stead was confident it wouldn’t keep him sidelined for the early matches.
Speaking about the tri-series, where the Black Caps won three of their five matches, losing to Pakistan twice, Stead largely got what he wanted from the games.
New Zealand, usually one of the best fielding sides in the world, were poor with their catching in Christchurch, dropping at least eight chances in the series.
Stead highlighted the end of their batting innings as an area that also needed improving – scoring 33 runs, while losing four wickets, in the final five overs on Friday. They should have easily posted 180-plus, but were restricted to 163-7.
The way opener Finn Allen and allrounder Michael Bracewell, the player of the series with eight wickets, took their chance in Christchurch was heartening to see. Both have likely locked up their spot in New Zealand’s first-choice XI for the World Cup.
Stead was encouraged by skipper Kane Williamson’s return to form, posting his first international half-century in nearly a year in the final. Williamson looked assured at the crease, timing the ball nicely, and ticked the scoring over, hitting at a strike rate of 155.
“Kane has said for a while he feels close and hopefully that’s the tipping point I guess that puts him to say I feel really good now and he can go into Australia with confidence.
“I thought he was terrific. He went out there and he looked to hit the ball early on. He put them under pressure right from the start and ran really well between the wickets.”
Martin Guptill’s demotion has been a talking point, playing just one match in the series, where he batted at three and scored 34 against Bangladesh.
Allen has overtaken the veteran in T20Is at the top of the order alongside Devon Conway, who had a stellar tri-series, scoring a tournament-best 233 runs at 77.66, which included two half-centuries and an unbeaten 49.
“You weigh up Gup’s history and what he’s done over a long period of time and I guess Finn’s freedom and ability to attack some very good players at the top of the order. We just feel at the moment what Finn is providing us with is that little point of difference,” Stead said.
Guptill is New Zealand’s leading T20I run-scorer in history with 3531 at a strike rate of 135 (20 half-centuries and two hundreds).
He has been an institution opening the innings for the Black Caps in T20Is since his debut in 2009, but Allen appears to have leapfrogged him.
“Obviously not easy and he’s disappointed as I would expect,” Stead said of Guptill’s lack of opportunities.
“Being the team man that he is, he’s been excellent around the group and we certainly appreciate that.”
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