16 January 2013

Several rhinoceroses of ineptitude

On the positive side, the Kiwis have never batted better in their second innings in an away series against the Proteas. An open-top bus parade through Wellington surely awaits ‒ their collective second-innings average of 23.5 was their best performance in their seven visits to South Africa.

Sadly for that hamster of consolation, bouncing up and down on the negative end of the statistical see-saw are several rhinoceroses of ineptitude. Only a tenth-wicket slapabout, as BJ Watling and Trent Boult added 59 in the second Test in Port Elizabeth prevented them from recording the worst-ever first-innings series performance in the history of Test cricket.

Even that only lifted them into second-last place (out of 1187), averaging 8.3 per first-innings wicket in the two Tests, compared to South Africa’s 6.5 in their first ever Test series, way back in 1888-89, when a trip to that part of the cricketing universe was rather less intimidating for visiting batsmen than it is now. Given that the 1888-89 games were only retrospectively awarded Test status some years later, New Zealand can still unproudly claim to have compiled the most dismal first-innings performance in a Test series by a team that actually knew it was playing in a Test series. And they can still also anti-boast that no team has ever lost its first-innings wickets more rapidly in a series than their once-every-19.2-balls, a figure boosted by the 50 balls of marathon resistance that Watling and Boult put together last week.

New Zealand also proved the two age-old cricketing truisms: “If you go to South Africa with three of your best batsmen missing from a team that habitually gets thrashed by South Africa, the fact that you are also missing your best pace bowler and best spinner will become swiftly irrelevant”; and, “If only two of your batsmen average over 21, and none of your bowlers takes more than four wickets, then you will probably struggle to win a series against the world’s best team.” Wise words.

- Andy Zaltzman, 'Viva New Zealand', Cricinfo, 15 January 2013
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