What a strange cricket tour of South Africa that was. A capitulation in the test series some rated as the worst of all time, being bundled in 19 overs before lunch on the first morning of a test match juxtaposed with a first ever series win in the republic and being one ball away from being the first country ever to sweep an ODI series in South Africa.
Models of Inconsistency
New Zealand teams are often accused of inconsistency and no-one has ever epitomised that quite like Martin Guptill. In the tests and ODIs he had a return of 55 runs from 7 trips to the crease with 48 of those coming in one innings. Yet on this tour he single-handedly won a T20 international with one of the greatest international centuries in that format ever seen.
For context, the next highest score across the whole series by a New Zealander was 25.
Kane Williamson scored the highest ODI innings by a New Zealander against a proper nation in a wonderfully paced innings. Next highest score on tour? 15.
James Franklin was another player who flipped expectations on their head. Out of his depth in the first test he provided the ideal focus for those at home calling for a complete clean-out of what was perceived as the deadwood. He then turned that around to be easily New Zealand most consistent player in the ODI series, playing major hands in the two wins. Some have criticised him for the last over loss in the final match, but the fact that he was rightly entrusted with that over showed his importance to the team.
The Mathew Sinclair Syndrome
Sometimes picking players on domestic form only is not always the way to go, as Mathew Sinclair has been reminding us regularly since 2000. It also reminds us that, for the most part, the selectors actually do know what they are doing; a complete personnel refresh is not the answer.
On this tour we had a few examples of this gulf, and that four year “When is he available?” wait we had for Neil Wagner to gain international eligibility now seems like a fair bit of wasted time. However, what we have seen to date would indicate that running through the Wellington middle-order from time to time does not an international bowler make.
Other examples of this syndrome were Rob Nicol, Colin Munro, Jimmy Nessham (for now anyway) and special mention goes to…
In a category all of his own
While it would be wrong to think that a spin bowler who bats at number 10 should be judged by his batting but there was something cringing about Jetan Patel flying off to square leg as Steyn came in to bowl. It wasn’t the Patel getting out that was the issue, it was the way he kept getting out.
The fact this was all happening during the week that Neil Adcock, centre stage in the legacy pf the Tangawai bravery, passed away made it stand out more.
Ultimately it was Patel’s lack of penetration that had more of an impact on the test series; Bruce Martin must been bowling some real pies in the nets
We will never know what was actually said, or more importantly not said, in Ross Taylor’s hotel room in Galle. Well not until one of the participants writes a confessional autobiography anyway.
From the evidence of the ODI series at least you would have to say that to make McCullum the captain for the short forms of the game had a lot of merit. Despite not being blessed with one of the great bowling attacks he marshalled the attack well when defending targets, made bowling changes outside pre-prescribed formulas and backed his instinct. At times it was reminiscent of the 1992 World Cup. It is often said that a fielding performance is a barometer of team spirit and focus. The fielding in Kimberley was the best it has been for years.
This was not so much the case in the tests. The decision to bat first in Cape Town is the decision that leaps to mind, although that would have not been a solo choice. And sub 50s scores in tests by travelling teams are the trend at the moment, and not confined to those batting first.
But there was not much of a senior group of players in the test squad; it is no coincidence that things clicked so much better in the ODIs with the likes of Mills, Elliott and the older brother around. If this team is to battle against England it needs as many of the experienced players around as possible.