Fleming wary of Lara's licence to thrill

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The Independent Online

Preparation or inspiration? Today's NatWest series final will be competed for by two teams from opposite ends of the one-day cricket spectrum.

Preparation or inspiration? Today's NatWest series final will be competed for by two teams from opposite ends of the one-day cricket spectrum.

Under John Bracewell and Stephen Fleming's guidance the "Black Caps" are probably the best prepared one-day side in the world. New Zealand's coach and captain love detail and would go to almost any length to gain a 1 per cent advantage over an opponent.

At Old Trafford, before the opening match of the tournament, New Zealand asked the groundsman to clear the ground so Bracewell and Fleming could show their fielders where they wanted them to field to different bowlers. The pair spent an hour working out angles. Thusthe fielders knew where they were expected to field and Fleming could concentrate on tactics.

Since Bracewell became coach the Kiwis have won 12 of their 14 one-day matches. The majority of these games were played at home but they were not against Mickey Mouse teams. Pakistan, South Africa, England and the West Indies have all lost to them.

The West Indians have attempted to adopt the same approach. Brian Lara spends more time studying statistics and video footage than Viv Richards or Clive Lloyd ever did, but somehow this attitude does not seem to bring the best out of his side.

Lara's team obviously need to show more discipline but they play their best cricket when they are free from constraints. Their inability to stick to a game plan makes them the most unpredictable team in the world but when they get things right they are brilliant to watch.

After being flogged around Lord's on Tuesday by Andrew Flintoff and Andrew Strauss few expected them to bounce back. The manner in which they chased down England's score of 285 was an example of how good they can be.

New Zealand, playing in their first one-day international at Lord's, start the final as favourites but the West Indies are capable of pulling off an unexpected victory.

It is unlikely that the captain who wins the toss will decide to bat, because each of the six completed matches in this competition have been won by the side batting second.

"We would like them to set a score first," said Fleming. "They seem to be more vulnerable then than when they are chasing. They are a dangerous team when they start playing confidently but when they are placed under pressure they can make mistakes."

Fleming will have a full squad to pick from after Chris Cairns convinced the selectors he has recovered from an injury to his left ankle. With New Zealand not set to tour England for another five years this could well be both players' final appearance at the home of cricket. They will be determined to go out on a high.

The West Indies will be tempted to stick with the team that beat England. Today's game will be played on the same pitch used for Tuesday's match and this could make runs harder to come by.

England, who will attempt to come up with a winning one-day formula before the Champions' Trophy in September, are not sure whether to put an emphasis on winning matches now or preparing for the 2007 World Cup. This is not a problem for New Zealand, who have a far more decisive view.

"The most important thing for us is that we win game by game," said Fleming. "It is all about results and if you lose focus of that you can become caught up with frustration and this can lead to mistakes in selection and a lack of consistency. England are going through this at the moment. They need to make some decisions and stick by them because if they keep chopping and changing they will go through a period of turbulence. I can say that because we have had a couple of years of it.

"We are in good form but to get to the next step [Australia] we need to find more from the team, because it is the No 1 spot that we are after."

New Zealand (from): *S P Fleming, N J Astle, C L Cairns, C Z Harris, ÝG J Hopkins, C D McMillan, H J H Marshall, J D P Oram, M H W Papps, S B Styris, D R Tuffey, D L Vettori, I G Butler, J E C Franklin.

West Indies (from): *B C Lara, ÝC S Baugh, T L Best, I D R Bradshaw, D J J Bravo, S Chanderpaul, J J C Lawson, C H Gayle, ÝR D Jacobs, R L Powell, R Rampaul, D J G Sammy, R R Sarwan, D S Smith, D R Smith.

Match referee: GJ Viswanath

Umpires: RE Koertzen & DR Shepherd