Cricket: Missed opportunities dominate trans-tasman summer

By David Leggat

Corey Anderson departs after being dismissed against Australia. Photo / Getty
Corey Anderson departs after being dismissed against Australia. Photo / Getty

It was the summer that promised so much, duelling toe-to-toe with Australia after a five-year gap.

Yet the final impression is of an opportunity which went begging for a variety of reasons, not all within New Zealand's control, and against superior opponents.

There were passages over the five matches which were loaded with riveting, rousing cricket but the bottom line on the card will read: Played five, lost four, one drawn.

Or at least it will tomorrow when Australia complete their victory in the second test at Hagley Oval.

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Only the most extreme optimist will figure New Zealand have a prayer with Australia needing 131 runs tomorrow with nine wickets remaining on a pitch playing perfectly for quality batsmen.

So were New Zealand's expectations set unreasonably high?

Remember the talk. This was no champion Australian side. No Mitchell Starc in New Zealand; Mitchell Johnson retired after Perth; there were batting holes, and bowlers to exploit.

Five names to ponder: Joe Burns, Usman Khawaja, Adam Voges, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood.

New Zealand fancied their chances against a batting lineup with the first three. Burns, Khawaja and Voges scored two, three, and two centuries respectively over the five matches.

Hazlewood, shaping as a modern-day Glenn McGrath, was too skillful. Lyon, Australia's most successful offspinner, was not treated with sufficient respect.

It needs to be acknowledged New Zealand had two pieces of rotten luck, both of which had a significant bearing on the tests in which they happened.

Third umpire Nigel Llong's gaffe over Lyon's dismissal in Adelaide stung, as did his colleague Richard Illingworth's no-ball howler against Doug Bracewell at Wellington.

They were game changers, although there are no guarantees those two matches would not have been lost anyway.

Had Kane Williamson carried on to score another pile of runs after his narrow squeak against Hazlewood's lbw referral just before lunch today, New Zealand would probably figure that would have been at least a partial balancing of that particular book.

Even allowing for injuries to Tim Southee and Jimmy Neesham, New Zealand were awful at Brisbane and poorly prepared whatever their denials on that score.

Ill-disciplined batting in Wellington cost them, but so did New Zealand's ineffective seam bowling, of which there were strong hopes.

Australia's seam bowlers were also a few kilometres faster and had greater mastery of reverse swing. To be fair, they also benefited from the best of the seam bowling conditions in both Wellington and Christchurch. The tosses decided that.

Those factors were certainly important, but too often Australia played superior cricket.

When New Zealand next play five-day cricket it will be in Africa in August when they will have a new captain.

Will the departure of Brendon McCullum and his immense influence change their general modus operandi? For a start, there's no chance of a like-for-like batting change there.

Time will tell, but challenging days await in the next 12 months. New Zealand may be about to undergo an adjustment in how they go about their test-match business.

- NZ Herald

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