Year-ender 2018: New Zealand team review: In whites, Blackcaps surge

The year began with a T20I series win over West Indies at home and ended with victory over Sri Lanka in the Boxing Day Test in Christchurch, underlining New Zealand’s status as the third-ranked team.

In between, Kane Williamson’s team whitewashed Pakistan 5-0 in a home ODI series, lost the T20Is 1-2, were beaten by Australia in the final of the Trans-Tasman T20 Tri-series, bowled England out for 58 on day one of a Test in Auckland to set up a 1-0 series win, lost the subsequent ODI series 2-3, tied an ODI series in the UAE 1-1, then lost all three T20Is before claiming a landmark 2-1 Test series win over Pakistan; back home, they failed to close out a home Test against Sri Lanka after taking a lead of 296 and reducing the visitors to 13/3.

A terrific year in Tests was capped by Williamson’s men making history by winning four successive series for the first time in the country’s history. This impressive run of form saw New Zealand beat England 1-0, Pakistan 2-1 in the UAE and Sri Lanka 1-0 at home. Imagine what could have happened had New Zealand played more than seven Tests last year.

In T20Is, surprisingly, New Zealand struggled, winning three of 13 matches, while in ODIs they held onto third spot.

As the World Cup year begins, it is with the promise of plenty for Williamson’s fighters.

2018 record

Tests: P 7 W4 L 1 D 2

Ranking: 3

ODIs: P 13 W 8 L 4 NR 1

Ranking: 3

T20Is: P 13 W 3 L 9 D  NR 1

Ranking: 6

High:

Beating Pakistan 2-1 for the country’s first overseas Test series win against them in 49 years. Playing Tests after a seven-month gap, Williamson’s team clinched a four-run thriller in Abu Dhabi – their narrowest win of all time – then lost in Dubai, before returning to Abu Dhabi where they triumphed by 123 runs.

New Zealand celebrate beating Pakistan 2-1 in the UAE
New Zealand celebrate beating Pakistan 2-1 in the UAE. @AFP

Low:

After going up 1-0 in the UAE, New Zealand were beaten by an innings and 16 runs in Dubai where Yasir Shah claimed 14 wickets. In their first innings, New Zealand were bowled out for 90 – their sixth-lowest tally of the modern era. Yasir’s 10 wickets in a day was a new record for a Pakistan bowler as New Zealand surrendered their last 10 wickets for 50 runs after being 50 without loss. Six ducks in that innings made it the joint worst in Test, tied with four teams.

Top performer:

Williamson finished 2018 with 1370 runs across 30 internationals, by far the most successful New Zealand batsman while leading them to famous Test series wins over England, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. He began the year with a silken 102 that helped crush England by an innings at Auckland, scored 63 and 37 in the epic four-run win over Pakistan in Abu Dhabi and a match-winning 89 and 139 in the decider and then, back at home, eased to 91 off 93 balls in the drawn Wellington Test versus Sri Lanka.

In ODIs, his 468 runs at 46.80 were second to Ross Taylor’s 639, with as many hundreds (two). In T20Is, Williamson finished third with 251 runs behind Colin Munro (500) and Martin Guptill (410).

Honourable mention: Nobody averaged more in 2018 than New Zealand’s middle-order crisis man Henry Nicholls, who in his first innings of the year scored an unbeaten 145 to set up a series-leading Test win over England and in his last, scored 162 not out to set up a series-clinching victory over Sri Lanka. In between were vital fifties and a superb unbeaten 126 in the deciding Test against Pakistan in the UAE. Nicholls was huge in New Zealand winning a record four successive Test series, truly making his mark last year. As 2018 ended, Nicholls moved up to seventh place in the ICC Test rankings.

Henry Nicholls scored a career-best 162* at Hagley Oval
Henry Nicholls scored a career-best 162* at Hagley Oval. © AFP

Fading force:

Ish Sodhi, earlier in the year ranked No 1 in T20Is, had by the end of 2018 fallen to sixth. In 13 games, the legspinner managed 10 wickets while conceding runs at 8.31 an over. In ODIs, he picked up 12 in seven games – four in one match – and went at 6.12 per over. In Tests, Sodhi fared the poorest: three wickets in three matches, average 72.66, strike-rate 120.

Out-bowled by the rookie Ajaz Patel in the first Test win over Pakistan, Sodhi was dropped for the decider and not included for the Wellington Test versus Sri Lanka.

One to watch:

On T20I debut at the age of 30, left-arm spinner Ajaz Patel opened the bowling and struck in his second over on the way to figures of 1/27 in four overs. Weeks later, Patel made his Test debut and in his first match bowled New Zealand to a four-run win in Abu Dhabi. In the decider, Patel added five wickets.

Lined up in 2019:

Jan-Feb: 3 ODIs, 1 T20I vs Sri Lanka (home); 5 ODIs, 3 T20Is vs India (home)

Feb-March: 3 ODIs, 3 Tests vs Bangladesh (home)

April: Two Tests vs England

June-July: ICC Cricket World Cup

August: 2 Tests, 3 T20Is vs Sri Lanka (away)

November: 2 Tests, five T20Is vs England (home)

December: 3 Tests, 3 ODIs vs Australia (away)