How the Black Caps rated: Summer of few bright spots

By David Leggat

David Leggat rates the Black Caps on their test efforts this summer and finds they were mostly fair to middling
Ross Taylor's season was dominated by the outstanding 290 at Perth. Photo / Getty
Ross Taylor's season was dominated by the outstanding 290 at Perth. Photo / Getty

Seven tests, two wins against Sri Lanka but a 0-4 outcome in five tests against Australia - that was New Zealand's test lot this summer. They were clearly superior to an ordinary Sri Lankan outfit but Australia had their measure with some comfort.

Two abysmal umpiring decisions hurt them badly but by the end of the final test against Australia on Wednesday, there was no doubt they were second best. Whether they deserved to be beaten that badly is a moot point. The scorecard is on balance slightly unfair.

But had those decisions in Adelaide and Wellington not happened, there are no guarantees Australia would not have won them both. Still they provided the hot debating points of the season.

Too many players failed to perform against the Australians.

Brendon McCullum is gone, but there is encouragement in the early performances of Mitchell Santner, while Henry Nicholls dipped his toes into test cricket.

So how did the the team rate over the test summer...

Tom Latham: 5

Steady, with a third test century, against Sri Lanka in Dunedin, to savour. Averaged 35.5 over his seven tests, but had disappointing dismissals in both Australian home tests, when set. Only three players reached 50 in the day-night Adelaide test. He was one of them. Looks the part; just needs to kick on to regular productivity closer to three figures.

Martin Guptill: 4

A good century against the Sri Lankans in Dunedin, his third, was balanced by another lean run of scores against Australia. He averages 16.3 in nine tests against them. Somehow he has to find a way to bring his formidable limited-overs game to the test team on a regular basis. Ditto Latham on a poor dismissal in Wellington when he'd got himself in and established.

Kane Williamson: 9

A dazzling start, with centuries in Brisbane and Perth, and had the Australian commentators purring. Battled in the Adelaide test under lights. Scored a match-winning unbeaten century against Sri Lanka in Hamilton and for a time his 97 in the second innings in Christchurch threatened to give New Zealand's bowlers something decent to work with late in the match. The Halberg Sportsman of the Year award, too. Scored 838 runs at 69.8 over the seven tests.

Ross Taylor: 8

His season was dominated by the outstanding 290 at Perth, the highest score made by a visiting player in Australia. Other than that, he didn't reach 40 in nine innings. A side strain took him out of the two home Australian tests and he was sorely missed. Not that one player would have changed the outcome. But for the Perth feat, he scores highly.

Brendon McCullum: 7

Two notable innings in an otherwise average season of batting achievement. A run-a-ball 80 at Brisbane might have pushed New Zealand close to an improbable victory until umpire Nigel Llong sawed him off. Then the fastest of all test hundreds to leave Christchurch with a glow. He was on track for a century to see off his days in Dunedin, too, until caught sweeping in the deep at 75. He was correct on Wednesday: the time is right to move on.

Henry Nicholls: 4

Came in for his test debut in Wellington and did well in the second innings, reaching a gritty 59, the highest score on debut for New Zealand at No4. His other three innings, however, were single figures. Got his chance through Ross Taylor's injury. Technical issues around off stump to iron out. Good fielder. Useful start, no more.

Corey Anderson: 6

An encouraging return to the test scene after eight months out recovering from back problems. A good double with the bat in Christchurch, bowled steadily and one fine, athletic return catch to savour.

Jimmy Neesham: 1

A tough break for the talented allrounder. He broke down early in the first test of the summer at Brisbane and went on rehab before reappearing for Otago. Should come again.

BJ Watling: 6

Average with the bat in Australia, finished well in Christchurch with a 58/46 double. Took 31 dismissals in his seven tests, including equalling the New Zealand record of nine dismissals against Sri Lanka in Dunedin. Unchallenged as No1 gloveman.

Mitchell Santner: 6

Gives off a cool cat vibe but insisted beneath the surface, he's a duck, paddling furiously. Impressive debut in the Adelaide day-night test, apart from one skyer dropped. A good double of 45 and 31 in difficult batting conditions, and a couple of wickets. Useful in the two Sri Lankan wins. His bowling action isn't conventional but seems to work for him. Adds plenty with his athleticism in the field. Sorely missed with a foot injury against Australia back here. A big year of development ahead.

Mark Craig: 4

Australia set their sights on the offspinner and feasted big time. His 10 wickets in four tests cost 66.6 apiece. His best moment came in Adelaide where his double dismissal of Steve Smith and Peter Siddle in five balls had New Zealand doing cartwheels. That was before umpire Llong intervened to New Zealand's despair. Compared poorly with counterpart Nathan Lyon but did have some misfortune in Australia, a missed stumping and a wicket of Usman Khawaja which Llong turned down when New Zealand had run out of referrals. Surpassed by Santner for the Sri Lankan tests. Time may be running out.

Tim Southee: 4

Injured on the first day of the summer in Brisbane, then had his foot in a moonboot three weeks before the Wellington test, so that didn't help. Just didn't have the snap in his bowling. Looked weary in Christchurch, a stark contrast to the ebullient Neil Wagner. Took 22 wickets, at 35.3, playing in all seven tests. His numbers are improved by 13 wickets in the two Sri Lankan tests. As McCullum pointed out on Wednesday, Southee "has some challenges" ahead of him.

Matt Henry: 4

Worked his socks off in both his tests, in Perth and Christchurch, with little to show for it. Is a better seamer than his figures, two for 292, suggest. Produced one of the batting highlights against Australia in Christchurch with his highest score, 66.

Doug Bracewell: 5

Ordinary start in Brisbane but picked up his game from there. Did well after a collective poor first day with the ball on the highway in Perth, and was the pick of the attack in the first innings under lights in Adelaide. Unlucky with catches spilled, too. Impressive against Sri Lanka. Counted out of the Christchurch test with a shoulder problem, but call this a season of restating his case. Fourteen wickets in six tests.

Neil Wagner: 7

Snared 16 wickets at 25 in his three tests, an outstanding return. His belligerence and tireless work was wholly admirable, even if the plethora of short-pitched bowling wasn't to all tastes. Ever willing to bowl when other shoulders were drooping. His six for 106 in the first innings at Christchurch against Australia was a sterling piece of work. You wonder why he wasn't used in the four earlier tests against them. Impressed the Australian media contingent in Christchurch, too, no mean feat.

Trent Boult: 6

Well below his best in the first two tests in Australia, returning from a layoff for back issues. Didn't look like he fully trusted himself to go hard out. Was sharp in Adelaide. Boult's biggest asset is swing. He simply could not get the ball to hoop about as he has. Took 24 wickets in his seven tests at 39.5. Okay numbers, but not at his best. Should patent his flamingo defensive stroke.

- NZ Herald

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