Improved, intact or diminished? Niall Anderson analyses the reputations and future prospects of the Black Caps after their disastrous tour of Australia.
The big winner from the test series, making his first-class opening debut and shining in it, with New Zealand's first test century at the MCG. He could have been out second ball during that century had Australia reviewed a rejected lbw appeal, but even given that slice of luck, he looked at home against the best fast-bowling attack in the world. His 34 off 105 balls in Sydney was another sign of promise, and while he's by no means a long-term fixture, after a long time as a squad player, he's now earned the right to a spot in the starting XI.
Thrown into the fire after the illness drama in Sydney, he rode his luck in making 52 on debut, but showed enough to suggest he's got a future at the top level. A versatile batsman who can cover multiple positions, he's likely to be the Black Caps' back-up batsman in the squad against India, with Will Young having yet to return to domestic cricket.
Came into 2019 with questions about whether he was slowing down, after taking just 14 wickets at 39.3 in 2018. Started the year well against Bangladesh and performed even better against England, but saved his best for last with a shining display in Australia, where his fitness and consistency returned 17 wickets, and left Australian coach Justin Langer puzzled when quizzing counterpart Gary Stead on just how Wagner does it. The first New Zealander to claim 40 wickets in a calendar year on two occasions, Wagner is nearly 34 but looks to have a lot left in the tank.
Cops some bizarre criticism at times, especially considering he's taken 62 test wickets at 24.3 in the past two years. Southee was a standout in Perth after Lockie Ferguson went down injured, and had returns of 12 wickets at 26 before being shockingly left out due to workload and pace concerns in Sydney. It was a decision that backfired when Matt Henry offered little, and Southee's place should be under limited scrutiny against India.
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Saw his stock improve by default, after none of the spinners made a dominant case in Australia for the right to play against India. Todd Astle or Mitchell Santner may still pip him on unfriendly pitches in New Zealand due to their all-round skills, but simply by not playing, Patel's future chances of selection may have increased.
Became a strange fan favourite in Sydney, with people who had never seen him bowl calling for him to play purely because he was something fresh and different to what hadn't worked before. Ended up spending a lot of overs in the field, and could potentially have a chance to push himself ahead of Henry in the seam-bowling stakes with good performances for New Zealand A.
As the Black Caps' batsmen were melting down once again in Sydney, their potential South African saviour was blasting 101 not out from 49 balls in a match-winning Twenty20 innings for Wellington. Available for Black Caps selection in all three formats in September, Conway could well be fast-tracked into the Twenty20 team for the World Cup – and is a must-pick in the Black Caps' test side this summer. The only questions remaining will be who he will replace, and where in the lineup he will bat.
Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor
Yes, neither of the Black Caps' premier batsmen had a series to remember, but in terms of long-term projections, their respective failures will matter not one iota to their status in the test team, while any talk of legacy damage or pressure on their positions is overstated. Concerns over Williamson's workload may grow with a poor Indian series, but he will captain in all three formats until he decides otherwise.
Trent Boult, Lockie Ferguson
Neither got a real chance to perform at the best of their abilities in Australia. Boult missed the pink-ball test in Perth due to injury, came back in Melbourne to remove Joe Burns fourth ball, but then went wicketless the rest of the test and fractured his hand, missing out on the Sydney test. Ferguson's tour was shorter – invalidated after 11 overs on debut in Perth due to a calf strain. If their recoveries go as projected, both will be in the squad to play India.
Produced a mixed showing when finally given a chance in Sydney. He took three wickets and looked the most lively of the New Zealand spinners used in the series, but two scalps came against players trying to up the run rate, and he went 33 overs without a maiden as he conceded 3.8 runs an over. However, he also showed promise with the bat, which should keep him at the top of the selectors' thoughts for the home tests against India, even if his style of bowling may not be perfectly suited to the conditions.
Colin de Grandhomme
Often comes under fire, mainly due to optics and an aggressive style, but still produced the third-most runs and third-most wickets in Australia, and there's nobody else in New Zealand who can fill his role. There are batsmen who could fare as well – Daryl Mitchell made 73 on debut – but nobody who can come close to offering the bowling threat de Grandhomme offers, as Mitchell also proved when sending down 22 wicketless overs when replacing him in Hamilton. De Grandhomme will be a crucial member of the squad against India.
Tom Latham, BJ Watling
Both came into the series with underwhelming records in Australia, but were talked about as one of the world's best in their respective positions. Those claims look much shakier now after further failures down under. Latham produced a few gusty efforts, batting for over 10 hours in the series, but only produced 126 runs, while Watling's superb run with the bat – having faced 173 balls or more in his four innings prior to the tour – came crashing down against the hostile pace and bounce in Australia, averaging just 17.5. Both are still automatic selections in the test team, but questions over their abilities against the best attacks in the world will again be put under scrutiny by the Indian bowlers.
Now at nine test innings without a 50, Nicholls' impressive record ensures he will get another chance against India. However, with Conway looming post-September, Nicholls' spot could be the one most at threat, so runs will be required before then to confirm his spot long-term.
Was given an unexpected opportunity to come in for the spin-friendly Sydney test when Boult broke his hand, but wasn't up to the task, taking just 1-135. His prior subcontinent success means a tour of Bangladesh in August is probably still on the cards, potentially in a squad alongside both Astle and Patel.
Persisted with for one test too long, it looked as if Raval's test career had come to an end after his failures in Perth. However, given a lifeline after the illness in Sydney, the opener showed enough in his 31 and 12 batting at No 3 to suggest the door doesn't have to entirely be closed, but his manner of dismissal – continuing his struggles against spin with two departures to the bowling of Nathan Lyon – indicates a problem that weight of domestic runs along may not fix. Unlikely to be seen in test whites again.
One of the few specialist bowlers in test history to have bowled over 2500 balls with an average exceeding 50, Henry will miss selection for the Indian tour if Wagner, Southee, Boult and Ferguson are fit. He didn't take his chance in Sydney, not helped by breaking his thumb early in the first innings, but Henry hasn't shown anything at test level to indicate the results would have been any different if perfectly healthy. He possibly still deserves fifth-choice status with no standout seamers coming through, but if Jamieson takes domestic wickets, or Adam Milne or Doug Bracewell ever get back to their healthy best, Henry no longer makes much of a demand for inclusion in test squads.
Has a decent record in New Zealand – 33.3 with the bat and 34.5 with the ball – and it was only four tests ago that he was a match-winner against England with 126 and three crucial fourth-innings wickets. However, such were his struggles in those last three tests – averaging 11 with the bat and 169 with the ball – that it would be hard to see him threaten India's batsmen, nor punish their bowlers. Australia may have sent him packing from the test team, at least for the time being.
Suggestions that Gary Stead's job may be on the line are drastically overblown considering the series wins he's produced in his short tenure, but there's no doubt reputations took a blow with the team's disastrous displays. Additionally, while it's impossible to parse the value of a batting coach unless buried within the camp every day, Peter Fulton would sleep easier with better results from his batsmen in friendlier batting conditions in New Zealand next month.
And, just to sum up just how fickle sport – and the subsequent analysis of it – can be, just how much more public scrutiny would Stead be under right now had Carlos Brathwaite hit the ball a metre further in Manchester?