Andrew Alderson

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

Cricket: Hesson promises 'new faces'

Senior members in ageing Black Caps team failed to lead from front in pressure games.

Tilakaratne Dilshan celebrates the dismissal of Australia's Clint McKay propelling Sri Lanka into the semifinals of the Champions Trophy at the expense of New Zealand. Photo / AP
Tilakaratne Dilshan celebrates the dismissal of Australia's Clint McKay propelling Sri Lanka into the semifinals of the Champions Trophy at the expense of New Zealand. Photo / AP

After winning and losing close Champions Trophy matches to Sri Lanka and England respectively and with a washout tracking similarly against Australia, New Zealand's ageing squad faces questions on how they get more sustained success and less of a clinging-to-the-lifeboats mentality from tournament play.

It is particularly relevant with national contracts on the agenda over the next fortnight.

New Zealand trumpeted into the Champions Trophy on the back of a 2-1 away one-day international series triumph over England - the best possible preparation.

Yet when "must win" came up in neon lights, New Zealand crumbled. The side missed the semifinals for the first time in five world 50-over tournaments, including the 2007 and 2011 World Cups, and the 2006 and 2009 Champions Trophies.

There was a sense of deja vu from the World T20 last September and October in Sri Lanka when, once the tournament branched into a super eight-type arrangement, two of the three matches were lost in eliminator overs.

New Zealand competed for periods but struggled to execute when it counted.

The team needs to look to its senior players in such instances to provide winning leadership. The incumbents were left grasping when it came to igniting the Martin Crowe factor at the 1992 World Cup or the Stephen Fleming-inspired survival at the 2003 equivalent with his century against South Africa.

Instead, against England at Cardiff, five of the top six made single-figure scores and two 22-year-olds, Kane Williamson and Corey Anderson (on ODI debut), were left to put on 73 for the sixth wicket to offer a brief crack at victory.

With the oldest side at the tournament - until Grant Elliott's late exit, eight of the 15 players (equal with Pakistan) were 30-somethings - coach and chief selector Mike Hesson faces a tough call whether such personnel are capable of winning the 2015 World Cup at home. The tournament will be a key factor in defining Hesson's legacy as a coach. He may need to summon younger players.

Hesson said youth would be represented when the national contracts are announced, which is promising news for the status of Williamson, Anderson and Mitchell McClenaghan (who remains the Champions Trophy top wicket-taker with 11 at 13.09).

"It's something we're looking at," Hesson said. "There will be new faces on the list."

Experience helped shape the ODI series victories away against South Africa and England with Kyle Mills, Ross Taylor, Elliott and the McCullum brothers often playing cameo roles, while Williamson, McClenaghan and Martin Guptill produced star performances.

Rain compounded New Zealand's inability to execute under pressure. The abandonment against Australia and the removal of 52 overs against England meant they never showcased their flair over a full 50 overs, as had been seen in the previous series.

Speaking after Sri Lanka's win over Australia, Hesson preferred to reflect on that as a defining factor. He refrained from criticising individuals' inability to execute in key moments.

"I don't know if we're lacking killer instinct," Hesson said. "It was such a congested tournament, we won a tight one, lost a tight one and had a no result. It was not a huge amount of cricket to reflect on. Against England there were only 24 overs a side - we were a bit untidy in the field over the first 10, we fought back, kept taking wickets, but were a bit frenetic with the bat at the start.

"It's such a small sample to work from. Most guys only had two hits the whole tournament and they weren't able to do it."

New Zealand stay on to play two T20 internationals against England on June 25 and 27 after a warm-up against Kent on Saturday.

Batsmen Hamish Rutherford and Tom Latham and spinner Ronnie Hira join the squad with Vettori, Elliott, Williamson and Ronchi exiting. Tim Southee's ankle injury still needs to mend, meaning Doug Bracewell remains on standby.

- NZ Herald

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