01 January 2011

New Zealand cricket in 2010

Williamson & McCullum batting in the 2nd test at Hyderabad
Following on from my statistical summary of the New Zealand cricket year in 2009, this is my brief run-down of the performance of the national side in 2010.  It may well turn out to be a briefer affair than last year's - after all, it's hardly been a vintage cricketing year for New Zealand supporters.  But there have been a few bright spots here and there to savour nonetheless.

Overall performance


Just as in 2009, New Zealand only won one test this year - at Hamilton in February, when they beat Bangladesh by 121 runs.  That was the first test of the year, but the following month there were two home trouncings by Australia in Wellington and Hamilton (losses by 10 wickets and 176 runs respectively).  Then test fans had to wait until November for the three test series in India, in which the test team performed surprisingly well to draw the first two tests in Ahmedabad and Hyderabad, only to succumb to the inevitable Indian backlash in the third test, which resulted in an Indian victory by a massive innings and 198 runs.  By the end of the year New Zealand had sunk back to eighth place in the world test rankings, ahead of only lowly Bangladesh.

New Zealand's ODI performances in 2010 were far below average, with only six wins from 22 matches played.  As expected, Bangladesh was dispatched 3-0 in New Zealand, and then the Australians were held to a 3-2 victory in a strongly contested five match home series.  The only highlight of the August triangular series in Sri Lanka against that country and India was the opening match in which New Zealand scored 288 and then rolled India in a surprise 200 run victory.  After that normal service was resumed and New Zealand struggled on the sub-continental pitches.  This only worsened in October when New Zealand played five ODIs in Bangladesh, and was defeated by the home side in all four of the completed matches (one was lost to rain).  Then New Zealand extended its losing streak even further by losing five more games in a row on tour in India.  The side's ranking has slipped from fourth at the end of 2009 to a miserable seventh.  All this with the World Cup just around the corner in 2011!

In T20 internationals New Zealand performed reasonably well, winning seven matches out of 13.  Victories against Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe and Pakistan in the ICC World T20 tournament in the West Indies in April and May weren't enough to progress to the finals.  There followed two speculative and rather peculiar T20s against Sri Lanka in Florida in an attempt to tap into the American market, and 2010 was closed out by three more against Pakistan at home, with New Zealand winning the first two and Pakistan taking the third.

Batting achievements

The clear stand-out in test batting was Brendon McCullum, who ditched the test wicket-keeper gloves in favour of a higher place in the batting order, including a peculiar but so far successful shift into the opening slot in India.  His 758 runs came at an average of 75.8 and included a splendid top score of 225 opening against India, along with two other centuries.  Martin Guptill and Jesse Ryder also returned strong averages, with Guptill scoring 452 runs at an excellent average of 50.2, and Ryder accumulating 274 runs at 54.8 in the three tests he played.  Ross Taylor also performed well, if not meeting his high potential, in scoring 433 runs at 39.4.  The arrival of young Kane Williamson (3 tests, 212 runs at 42.4) to the team also holds the prospect of a stronger batting lineup in the coming years.  There were eight test centuries in 2010, three of which were by McCullum, including the afore-mentioned top score of 225.  Guptill, Taylor, Williamson, Ryder and Tim McIntosh scored the remaining tons.  The best partnership of the year was McCullum and Guptill's 339 against Bangladesh in Hamilton in February.

Tellingly, no batsman managed to appear in all 22 ODIs in 2010.  Taylor came closest with 20 appearances, and he topped the batting tables, scoring 676 runs at 37.6.  Runner-up Scott Styris returned to the team for 14 matches and performed solidly with 474 runs at 39.5.  Aside from these performances, most other New Zealand batsmen fared poorly, with Guptill and Brendon McCullum failing to live up to their test form.  The only other bright spot was Kane Williamson, whose 108 against Bangladesh in Dhaka in the 4th ODI was the year's only ODI century by a New Zealand batsman.  There were only two century partnerships in 2010: Jacob Oram and Neil Broom's 123 against Bangladesh in Napier in February, and Styris and Taylor's 190 against India in Dambulla in August.

Brendon McCullum scored the most T20 runs in 2010, with 287 runs at 41.0, although this is significantly down on his 2009 total of 417.  His barnstorming 116 not out from 56 balls against Australia in Christchurch was the year's high score, and set up a massive target of 214 that the tourists later tied.  The top partnership of the year was Guptill and James Franklin's 91 against Pakistan in Hamilton in December.

Bowling achievements

This was hardly a stellar year for New Zealand bowling performances.  In test matches captain Daniel Vettori was once more the stand-out achiever, taking 26 wickets at a rather high average of 38.4.  Chris Martin and Tim Southee took 14 wickets each, but while Southee's average of 38.9 was a bit high, Martin's average of 52.2 was troubling.  His fired-up decimation of India's second innings in the first test at Ahmedabad may have saved his spot for another New Zealand summer, but there are a handful of younger bowlers keen to take the 36-year-old's place.  Still, it's not often that a bowler can claim to have single-handedly reduced India to 15/5 at home, is it?

Vettori topped the ODI wicket-taking list too, with 21 wickets at 25.7.  But he was almost matched by two others, with promising newcomer Andy McKay and the experienced Kyle Mills each taking 19 wickets at an average of around 26.5.  A sad note is the presence of Shane Bond on the list, with nine wickets at 21.0 from only five matches - if only he could've played for New Zealand for longer.  There were no five-wicket bags in 2010, so Bond's 26/4 against Australia in Wellington - his last ODI appearance - was the year's best haul.

The off-spinner Nathan McCullum topped the T20 list, taking 17 wickets, with Southee's 11 and Styris' 10 wickets rounding out the top three.  Southee's 18/5 destroyed Pakistan's innings in the Auckland T20, while Styris' wickets came at an average of only 8.0.

The year ahead

The remainder of the 2010/11 summer sees New Zealand preparing for the World Cup by hosting Pakistan for a two test 'series' followed by six ODIs in which new coach John Wright can test his plans for the subcontinent.  New Zealand's first World Cup match is on 20 February against Kenya in Chennai, and is followed by group matches against Australia, Zimbabwe, Pakistan, Canada and Sri Lanka.

After the World Cup New Zealand will have to rustle up some opponents to play, because the Future Test Programme has no opponents listed home or away until a November two-test tour of Australia!  This sparse schedule is compounded by the fact that the first scheduled touring team for the New Zealand 2011/12 summer is Zimbabwe, so there's a possibility that there may be another gap in the schedule due to the ongoing sporting boycott of the Harare regime.  Here's hoping that the ICC remembers that New Zealand needs some opponents in 2011, otherwise it could be very thin pickings for New Zealand cricket fans.  I said as much last year, so it seems New Zealand always has to scramble for whatever it can get these days.  What are the odds on yet another Bangladesh or Pakistan tour?
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