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Focus on McCullum in farewell ODI series

New Zealand calls up leg-spinner Sodhi while Australia buttons down pace-heavy bowling attack

Focus on McCullum in farewell ODI series - Cricket News
New Zealand celebrates the wicket of Ahmed Shehzad.
Much of the focus on Wednesday (February 3) in the first One-Day International between New Zealand and Australia at Eden Park in Auckland, will be on Brendon McCullum, the home captain. The three-match ODI series will be the last limited-overs international assignment for McCullum. He will bid farewell to international cricket at the end of the two-Test series that will follow the ODIs.
 
McCullum, however, chose to play down the fact that this would be his farewell series. "I'm certainly not focusing on it being my farewell tour, it's a great opportunity for the team to put another line in the sand," he said.
 
While McCullum will seek to make his last ODI series a memorable one, he has just returned to action after spending around a month on the sidelines owing to a back injury. McCullum did not enjoy the best of comebacks in the third and final ODI against Pakistan in which he was dismissed for a first-ball duck. 
 
That match also saw New Zealand struggle slightly against Pakistan's spinners. Perhaps taking a cue from that, the home team decided to bring in Ish Sodhi as a last-minute addition on a match to be played at the same venue as the Pakistan win.  
 
McCullum pointed out to the stumping of Kane Williamson, among the better players of spin in the New Zealand line,-up while explaining the reason for bringing in Sodhi’s leg-spin. "The wicket the other day was a little bit slow and we're going to play on the same pitch," McCullum said. "Not many get past Kane, so the wicket obviously had a little more turn than we expected. There's potential that we will look to include (Sodhi) in the side if we think the wicket is going to hold up."


 
Australia has had a terrific run in ODIs and is fresh off a 4-1 win over India at home. In direct contrast to New Zealand’s approach, Australia has opted for a pace-heavy attack. Steven Smith, the captain, confirmed on match eve that Australia would use a four-man pace attack comprising Josh Hazlewood, John Hastings, Kane Richardson and James Faulkner. That would mean Scott Boland and Adam Zampa, the uncapped leg-spinner, will miss out. 
 
Like New Zealand, Australia has tremendous firepower on the batting front. Questions had been raised regarding who would open the innings with David Warner, with Shaun Marsh and Usman Khawaja vying for the second opener's spot. Smith, however, put all speculation to rest by confirming that Marsh would play ahead of Khawaja. 
 
"Shaun has been in the squad and played well in Australia and he deserves the first opportunity," Smith said. "He (Khawaja) will play one of the games and he does need a hit going into what is a big Test series for us, and he's batting extremely well. He's unlucky to miss out."
 
The last time Australia met New Zealand at Eden Park was a thriller in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 which the host nation won by one wicket. Australia was bowled out for 151 after being blown away by Trent Boult before a special spell from Mitchell Starc turned the match on its head. It was swing on that occasion while on Sunday against Pakistan, the spinners called the shots. What the surface will have in store on Wednesday remains to be seen.
 
Teams:
New Zealand (from): Brendon McCullum (capt), Corey Anderson, Trent Boult, Doug Bracewell, Grant Elliott, Martin Guptill, Matt Henry, Adam Milne, Colin Munro, Henry Nicholls, Luke Ronchi (wk), Mitchell Santner, Ish Sodhi, Kane Williamson.
 
Australia: Steven Smith (capt), David Warner, Shaun Marsh, George Bailey, Glenn Maxwell, Mitchell Marsh, Matthew Wade (wk), James Faulkner, John Hastings, Kane Richardson, Josh Hazlewood.

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