Tests 8th, ODI 7th, T20 4th.
South Africa (H) – T20 lost 2-1 (3), ODI lost 3-0, Tests lost 1-0 (3)
Zimbabwe (H) – Tests won 1-0 (1) , ODI won 3-0 (3), T20 won 2-0 (2)
Australia (A) – Tests drew 1-1 (2)
Zimbabwe (A) – Tests won 1-0 (1)
A typically inconsistent (English) winter for New Zealand. At times they looked a decent side, such as when they bullied Zimbabwe (reducing them to the fabulous score of 51allout) and when pulling off a remarkable win in Hobart to share a Test series with Australia. Once South Africa came to town, however, New Zealand reverted to type – fragile batting failing to give their reasonable bowling attack anything to work with.
In the world of Test Cricket New Zealand sit in limbo, well below the likes of Sri Lanka and (at the time of writing) the West Indies but above Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, as evidenced by a clean sweap of the latter, both home and away. Even that wasn’t without its problems, with Zimbabwe very nearly chasing down 366 to win the one-off Test in Bulawayo.
New Zealand’s batting woes have seen a series of reshuffles at the top of the order, essentially throwing as much mud as possible and hoping some sticks. Martin Guptill and Kane Williamson both look fine prospects but they’ve struggled for consistency and to translate starts into serious scores. Around them Brendan McCullum, Ross Taylor and the issue-laden Jesse Ryder all had patchy winters, with the job of bailing them out regularly falling to Dean Brownlie and the evergreen Daniel Vettori. It’s a tactic that might work occasionally but it more often that not resulted in major collapses, with the Kiwis failing to reach 300 once in five matches against Australia and South Africa.
The New Zealand bowlers had a pretty decent winter. Doug Bracewell looks a very good prospect, Chris Martin is consistent (in every possible way) and Mark Gillespie did very well against South Africa. On the downside, Daniel Vettori is starting to look more and more like a purely defensive option, rather than an attacking one. He may have fantastic facial hair but he averaged 44 with the ball in his one game against Australia and 95 against South Africa.
The visit of South Africa was a good barometer of where New Zealand really stand. They were very competitive in the T20 series – winning the first game, beaten in the second by an obscene innings from Richard Levi and then snatching defeat from the jaws of victory in the third – but were outclassed in the ODI series and reliant on the weather to salvage two draws in the Tests.
Supporting New Zealand must be a confusing experience, like that time we dressed up as Lady Gaga and did a dance for our dad before going on to murder our stepmum’s best friend with a picture frame. Expectations are perennially low but there’s always the occasional unexpected victory to perk things up. It’s likely to stay that way for some time – there just isn’t the pool of players to choose from so the same few faces will continue to frustrate and occasionally inspire. It certainly won’t hurt the likes of Kane Williamson to spend time in the County Championship. New Zealand might want to consider giving some of their bowlers similar experience, especially as they don’t play again until the very end of June, when they travel to the West Indies.