Andrew Alderson

Andrew Alderson is a sport writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Black Caps enjoy champagne's buzz, but flat spots remain

New Zealand's cricketers celebrated their one-day series over England by spraying champagne at one another like Formula One drivers, but the team need a pitstop to assess their one-day form before the Champions Trophy.

The tournament started overnight, with India meeting South Africa in Cardiff.

Despite New Zealand's improved ODI performances after the test anguish, captain Brendon McCullum identified four areas for improvement after a rejuvenated England won the final match of the three-game series by 34 runs at Trent Bridge.

Death bowling, middle order batting, overall fielding and general fitness came into the crosshairs for attention before their campaign opens against Sri Lanka on Sunday.

Sri Lanka have won 10 of the last 11 completed 50-over encounters between the sides since January 2007. In tournament play, Sri Lanka has won seven of eight since the first Champions Trophy in October 1998.

The other danger for New Zealand is the spur the result has given to England's confidence.

The two sides meet again in a pool match in Cardiff next Sunday.

New Zealand gave away 76 runs in the final four overs assigned to death bowlers Mitchell McClenaghan (two), Kyle Mills and Tim Southee. A manageable chase of 250 (New Zealand finished on 253) was suddenly beyond them.

McCullum said the new ODI rule specifying that at least five fielders have to be inside the 30m circle at all times had a significant effect.

"As a result destructive players like Jos Buttler [who hit 47 off 16 balls] have more impact, especially in the latter stages. His ball striking was great and his options were good getting away early lap shots. That made our bowlers wary of going for yorkers which they used to bank on."

New Zealand's chances were also doused by the fall of four wickets for 26 runs between overs 16 and 25.

McCullum said that at least their tail had a chance to wag - brother Nathan and Kyle Mills made 28 and Tim Southee 15 - but it was hardly ideal.

"If you strip it right back, we were excellent for 90 per cent of the game," McCullum said.

"But I'd have much preferred to chase it with one wicket down. I guess everyone's had a bat, but we weren't able to contribute with enough partnerships. Fortunately we fed off the batting of Martin [Guptill] and Ross [Taylor] during the series."

Taylor's 71 was his third consecutive ODI half-century and underlined his batting leadership. Guptill's contribution was simple. The man-of-the-series averaged 330 after being dismissed for the first time in game three for 38.

The New Zealand fielding ranged from sublime - including two Guptill runouts - to sloppy with misfielding and spilt catches.

"A couple of times it got scratchy," McCullum said. "I can't fault the effort. The execution was sometimes off but overall it went up a level from previous series."

Matters might be helped by two days' rest.

McCullum suggested Southee might need to recover further after being rested for the second match. After an outstanding test series and first one-dayer, his bowling (nine overs, none for 65) and fielding were erratic in Nottingham.

"Tim had an off day," McCullum said. "But he's been brilliant for us for a long time and bowling exceptionally well."

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_n6 at 22 Oct 2014 07:45:32 Processing Time: 916ms