By Shrikant Shankar
New Zealand are another team that have had a mixed 2013. They do not possess the talent of old, but there is optimism as many youngsters have ensured that New Zealand cricket has a bright future. There have been flashes of brilliance and also some very mediocre performances on show from New Zealand in 2013. Some new stars have emerged and there seems to be a core of players being formed who will be part of the future of New Zealand cricket.
The year 2013 began with New Zealand losing a two-match Test series 2-0 in South Africa. While losing to South Africa in Tests is acceptable in recent times, New Zealand lost both matches by an innings, which would concern them. They managed to pull off a 2-1 One-Day International (ODI) series win subsequently. The find of the series was left-arm medium-fast bowler Mitchell McClenaghan. On his debut, he rattled the accomplished South African batting line taking a four-wicket haul for 20 runs.
Then they hosted England in a full tour. They lost the T20 series 2-1 and also the ODI series by the same margin. While that was surely disappointing, the real surprise came in the three-match Test series. England had just beaten India 2-1 in a four-match Test series away and were full of confidence. New Zealand’s Test record over the past few years has been quite ordinary. England began the series as favourites, but underdogs New Zealand showed their ever-present fighting spirit to quell those tags.
The Test series eventually ended at a 0-0 stalemate. New Zealand could even have snatched victory in the third Test at Auckland if not for Matt Prior’s heroics. That match also saw the return of Peter Fulton. While he played the first two Tests, Fulton did not impress much. In fact, Fulton has rarely fulfilled the faith that the New Zealand selectors had shown in him. But he not only scored his first Test century at Auckland in the first innings, he followed that up with another century in the second innings.
Their return tour to England did not see them challenging their much-fancied hosts. New Zealand lost the two-match test series 2-0. In the ODI series, Martin Guptill rewrote records books. In the first ODI at Lord’s, Guptill scored a fine 103 not out to help New Zealand take a 1-0 lead in the series. In the second ODI at Southampton, Guptill scored a magnificent 189 not out as New Zealand won the three-match series. This is the highest individual score by any New Zealand batsman in ODIs.
Despite beginning their ICC Champions Trophy 2013 campaign with a win against one of the favourites Sri Lanka, New Zealand crashed out in the group stages. They won the two-match T20 series 1-0 and finished their England tour on a relative high. Then came the low. A two-match Test series in Bangladesh finished 0-0. But the three-match ODI series was lost 3-0. Bangladesh almost won all of these matches with ease. They did finish the tour with a T20 victory before heading off to Sri Lanka.
In the island nation, they drew the three-match ODI series 1-1, before losing a two-match T20 series 1-0. A three-match Test series at home against West Indies finished with all smiles as New Zealand won 2-0. Trent Boult has been leading the bowling attack with Tim Southee for New Zealand for a few years now and the duo seem to have got a very good bowling partnership going. They have players like Corey Anderson, Neil Wagner, Ish Sodhi, Doug Bracewell and McClenaghan to help them in the bowling department.
While their bowling department is young, it does seem quite settled and can form the backbone for New Zealand cricket in the years to come. Their batting does not have the same consistency. Players like Ross Taylor, Brendon McCullum and Guptill are still expected to do the bulk of the scoring. Youngsters like Hamish Rutherford, Kane Williamson, Neil Broom, James Neesham, Anton Devcich and Tom Latham have to step up in the batting department if New Zealand are to progress as a side.
One major retirement was that of perennial No 11 and right-arm seamer, Chris Martin. He played the very first Test against South Africa at Cape Town and called it a day. Many have made a lot of jokes about his batting, but his bowling figures are still quite good to have.
New Zealand have a really young side and seem to be heading in the right direction. Their next big Test is against India at home in 2014, but all eyes will be set on the ICC World Cup 2015, which will be jointly hosted by New Zealand along with Australia. A good showing in the mega-event will go a long way in defining the immediate future of New Zealand cricket.
(Shrikant Shankar is a writer/reporter at CricketCountry.com. Previously he has done audio commentary for various matches involving India, Indian Premier League and Champions League Twenty20 for ESPNSTAR.com. You can follow him on Twitter @Shrikant_23)
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