S. Ram Mahesh

St. Peter's: The Stanford cricket ground, fronted by the showy Sticky Wicket restaurant, is a minute's walk from the VC Bird airport in St. John's near here. It's a walk New Zealand is sick of.

Lou Vincent erred in judgment during Sunday's net session, according to manager Lindsay Crocker, and wore a Shane Bond delivery on his left wrist.

He has flown back, his World Cup dream in shards.

Fitness worries

Vincent's loss isn't the only injury woe to betide New Zealand ahead of its Super Eight match against the West Indies here at the Sir Vivian Richards Cricket Ground on Thursday.

Paceman Mark Gillespie continues to recover from a virus that numbed his shoulder during the long flight from New Zealand. Daryl Tuffey tore his bicep in St. Lucia. He's already home. Ross Taylor had an MRI scan to check on his twinged hamstring. He will not play on Thursday.

Hamish Marshall, who almost didn't answer coach John Bracewell's call because he confessedly doesn't take calls from unknown numbers, and Chris Martin, who was supposed to be at an engagement party, have replaced Vincent and Tuffey.

"It's been a dramatic week with Lou (Vincent) going and Rossco (Taylor) working hard on getting back," said New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming. ``It has changed the balance of the side but the core is still there and the bonus has been we've had six days to adjust it hasn't been thrown on us the day before a game so we've been able to prepare mentally for it."

Tough task for Marshall

Taylor's unavailability ensures Marshall will need to make the quickest recorded recovery from jet lag to walk out to bat at three on Thursday.

"It's going to be a big challenge for Hamish and certainly the team realises that," said Fleming. "Once he gets in, he will be put through his paces. We'll do everything possible to make sure he's ready to go. It's a pretty important 36 hours but I guess knowing he's going to play, coming off some runs at home and being back in the team will give him some energy and adrenalin."

Vincent's exit will hit New Zealand hard. Not only does Vincent offer a bristling counterpoint to Fleming's scholarly elegance at the top of the order, he leads the team's fielding effort. He mans point, and is New Zealand's best all-round fielder.

Peter Fulton, the tall, correct batsman, will open with Fleming. It's in keeping with the team's thinking that conserving wickets up front especially if batting first with the early start is the way to go.

"Pete's played up and down the order knowing he was going to be a utility batter," said Fleming. "Pete is a different type of player (to Vincent) and if anything his form is outstanding. To leave him out of the first couple of games was incredibly difficult."

Fleming had been mulling over the idea of opening with McCullum again. It mightn't have been the best decision McCullum, with his unique ability to time the first ball he faces, is an asset at seven. He can move the ball around to work the single in deference to Jacob Oram; he can, however, hit the ball longer than the big left-hander should the need arise.

No respite

For the West Indies cricketers, Thursday will be the third straight day they'll turn up at the Sir Vivian Richards Cricket Ground for a Super Eight match. On the bright side, Lara's men have the advantage of knowing the conditions a little better.

The West Indies needs to win. No team sets out with the thought, but New Zealand, having carried points from the group stage and with Bangladesh and Ireland lined up, can absorb an early loss better. The West Indies, despite carrying points, can't.

The teams (from): New Zealand: Stephen Fleming (Capt.), Shane Bond, James Franklin, Peter Fulton, Mark Gillespie, Brendon McCullum (wk), Craig McMillan, Michael Mason, Jacob Oram, Jeetan Patel, Scott Styris, Ross Taylor, Chris Martin, Daniel Vettori and Hamish Marshall.

West Indies: Brian Lara (Capt.), Ian Bradshaw, Dwayne Bravo, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Corey Collymore, Chris Gayle, Kieron Pollard, Daren Powell, Denesh Ramdin (wk), Marlon Samuels, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Lendl Simmons, Dwayne Smith, Devon Smith and Jerome Taylor.

Umpires: Rudi Koertzen (RSA) and Asad Rauf (Pak).

Third umpire: Aleem Dar (Pak); Match referee: Mike Procter (RSA).

Hours of play (IST): 7 p.m. to 10.30 p.m. and 11.15 p.m. till close.

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