Three questions: Where does Black Caps' win rank?

Kane Williamson was the most valuable player of the series for the Black Caps. Photo / AP
Kane Williamson was the most valuable player of the series for the Black Caps. Photo / AP

Herald cricket writers Dylan Cleaver and David Leggat answer three burning questions following the Black Caps' series win over the West Indies.

1.Where does this rate among NZ's best achievements in an overseas test series?

Dylan Cleaver: It is right up there. This was a far better West Indies team than NZ beat in their own conditions six months ago, although it's still a side with issues. NZ have won just 13 of 73 series played overseas and six of those were against Zimbabwe and Bangladesh, and another was against a formative Sri Lanka team in 1983-84. That makes just six wins against strong, traditional opponents: two in England (1-0 in 1986, 2-1 in 1999); one in Australia (2-1 in 1985-86); one in Pakistan (1-0 in 1969-70) and now two in the West Indies (1-0 in 2002 and 2-1 in 2014). This might sit towards the bottom of that pile, but it's still hell of an achievement.

David Leggat: It's an outstanding achievement, but to this mind it would take something special to top both the victory in Australia in 1985-86 and in Pakistan back in 1969.

Still let's not quibble. An overseas win at any time - given the vast bulk of New Zealand test success has been won at home - is to be applauded.

2. What was the key to the series win: Kane Williamson's batting? Brendon McCullum's captaincy? Well-balanced attack?

Cleaver: Certainly all three contributed, but Williamson walks off with the series' MVP award by the length of the straight. The struggles of Peter Fulton and Hamish Rutherford (and you can throw Tom Latham's third test into that mix) has meant he has become the pivotal figure in restoring some top order sanity. To accumulate 413 runs and record your only failure in the one innings where it didn't matter speaks of a man who is maturing into New Zealand's best player. He needs a couple more series like this one to take that mantle from Ross Taylor, but don't back against it. A quick shout-out, too, for the performance with the gloves of BJ Watling. In trying conditions he was superb and his influence should not be underplayed.

Leggat: A mix. No question Williamson deserved player of the series. Both his hundreds pushed New Zealand towards victories. What price the little man from Northern Districts not chasing down Martin Crowe's benchmark 17 centuries? He was Mr Steady through the series and topping 400 runs in three tests is a strong performance. McCullum's captaincy has produced some unusual field settings at times. As befitting a man who enjoys a punt, some come off, some don't. But he's clearly a popular leader, even if he needs runs again. How the dark first year in the job - 10 tests without a win - must seem a grim distant memory. Five wins in his last seven tests? You'd take that any day. And yes, with the option of the leg and offspinner - or even both if the occasions demands it - plus left and right arm seam you can't ask much more of a bowling attack.
One other point: New Zealand recognised from last summer's home series that the Windies were vulnerable if they could tighten the screws and keep beavering away even when things weren't going their way. Getting 10 wickets on the final day today was a fine effort, persistence rewarded.

3. Obvious issues remain at the top of the order. What will Mike Hesson and his selectors do about it, and are there any other issues to address before they play Pakistan in the UAE?

Cleaver: Yes there are issues and every good team should be attempting to become great, so I'm sure Hesson and his cohorts have some thinking to do. Loyalty aside, it's inconceivable Fulton and Rutherford can continue to be selected without some solid first-class evidence that they have addressed technical issues. Someone like Michael Papps, who been tried and failed before, must come back into the frame because, let's face it, he can't do any worse and he at least put together a prolific domestic season.

Likewise Aaron Redmond must be a bolter's chance. Let's hope they don't try to manufacture an opener out of Corey Anderson or James Neesham - not yet anyway.
I have concerns about the ability of NZ's spinners to get wickets in conditions that are not overly spin-friendly. Mark Craig is rarely going to get conditions like this again and he showed real vulnerability at times. Ish Sodhi is a sparkling talent, but is not test standard yet.

Leggat: There's negligible cricket for test-type openers before the tour to the UAE late in the year. Tom Latham obviously stays but Hamish Rutherford and Mark Bracewell are on the A tour to England shortly. Rutherford looks like he's facing a battle on two fronts right now, technical and mental, while Fulton's run has likely come to an end. Michael Papps, 35 tomorrow, seems out of favour, despite a formidable pile of domestic runs, but Aaron Redmond's recall for a test last summer suggests he's still in the mix. It's a specialist role, so don't try and manufacture a middle order player to fit. In no special order, here's some names: Martin Guptill, Jeet Raval, Daniel Flynn. All put up good numbers last summer. Two have been there before; Raval is highly rated.
The seamers stay as is and two specialist spinners should certainly go to the UAE. Craig and Sodhi are the logical picks, although - Craig's notable debut tour notwithstanding - both have plenty to work on. However, the UAE won't be unfriendly to the slow men.

- NZ Herald

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