Finally, we have reached the end. The end of short-form cricket for the Black Caps before they compete in the ODI World Cup in England and Wales, starting in May.

As Southee claimed his sixth wicket in the final ODI against Bangladesh on Wednesday, he finished what had been a fairly pedestrian final series against a side with no security with the bat and little potency with the ball.

None of this should have been a surprise. Anyone expecting any sort of challenge would have been thoroughly let down at the very average level of cricket required from the Black Caps to put away their opponents.

The test series will be a nice warm-down for our boys. There are reports that past players getting over injury woes will find their way back into the side, quite likely to be Central Districts paceman Adam Milne.


It couldn't be a better time for one of New Zealand's quickest to stretch his legs against batters who have shown a significant weakness playing a quick ball, especially when it moves.

Looking at the stats, the home summer has been a successful one in the 50-over format. Of 11 games, the Blackcaps have won seven and lost four against three different opposition.

It would be fair to assume the players and coaching staff wouldn't be feeling too bad about a 64 per cent win rate. But delving further past the numbers makes for alarming reading.

First of all, the fact remains that all 11 games were played at home. A home series is supposed to come with a huge advantage. A familiarity with pitch conditions, the reassurance of a supportive crowd and the inherent confidence knowing you can perform just as you did throughout domestic competitions.

The advantage should be doubled by the fact that all three series were against sub-continent teams. Teams more suited to the heat and sharp spin rather than the bite of a Christchurch wind and a swinging ball.

It's not as if we were playing England or Australia who are more accustomed to New Zealand's style of cricket. However, one must wonder whether the home advantage is slowly diminishing due to the array of international tournaments in a calendar year.

While it might not be the case for New Zealand's domestic cricket scene, many of the more experienced and some of the up-and-coming players get a taste of foreign conditions a few times a year.

If the West Indies test series against England proved anything, it's that the home advantage will never truly dissipate but it still remains food for thought as the true idea of an international cricketer comes into focus.


Further discrediting my point is the fact that when the Indians came to our shores, the advantage of a home crowd for the Black Caps was severely lessened, if not reversed as a sea of blue shirts filled stadiums up and down the country, bringing more flair and enthusiasm to a series than New Zealand fans bring to a whole season.

In any case, at home, 64 per cent is not great. Now split that into the three tours. Three from three against Sri Lanka, three from three against Bangladesh, and one from five against India. I don't need to point out the win rate in that last one because the stat speaks for itself.

In their own conditions, the Black Caps haven't coped against high-class opposition. They rely on the ball moving in the air or off the pitch and when that doesn't happen, you get the distinct feeling you're watching one of those junior games where everyone moves around one position, so everyone can have a bowl and see what happens.

The bowling will be the key come World Cup time. The batting, it seems, has been confirmed both by performance and restrictive selection. Martin Guptill, Ross Taylor and Tom Latham look in good touch, albeit against questionable bowling outfits.

Kane Williamson hasn't looked his usually-assured self but I see the World Cup as a chance for him to rise up and lead from the front, similar to his 2015 campaign. The allrounder position is in its usual place of flux as not one of Colin de Grandhomme, Doug Bracewell or James Neesham has put a stake in the ground and locked up the spot.

The position of wicketkeeper should be a real area of concern. Ideas of Henry Nicholls being the reserve keeper are as ludicrous as they sound and Latham, as good as he is, is not up to the quality of keepers around the world.

Once again, the omission of BJ Watling continues to bemuse me. The man can score runs when he wants to and even though he can be slow in the five-day format, he is a classy gloveman and provides assurance down the order in a batting style which must seem other-worldly to De Grandhomme.

In any case, it will be the bowlers who make the difference. Tim Southee has proved doubters wrong again, needlessly in my opinion, and will make the flight to England, with partner Trent Boult. These two will be the sting at the top and with a moving ball, will set our boys off to a good start come May.

It's in overs 20-40 where we have a right to worry. These are the "squeeze overs", the ones where tight, wicket-to-wicket bowling builds pressure and with pressure, comes wickets.

Neither Neesham or de Grandhomme have proved themselves worthy of executing this role. Despite their fireworks with the bat, too many extras and the one boundary ball an over foils any chance of those top sides feeling threatened.

Mitchell Santner will have a huge responsibility as the frontline spinner and needs to bowl 10 overs for 30, picking up a wicket or two in every game if we are to progress. Whether it be Ish Sodhi, Todd Astle or even Williamson to back up the Northern Districts left-armer, he'll need to channel his inner-Vettori to truly make a difference at the tournament.

At the end of the day, the summer hasn't been convincing but it's been enough to give us some hope. You could almost say the Black Caps have a 64 per cent chance of doing well at the World Cup with the number of questions yet to be answered.

Until the squad of 15 is chosen, we can only hope for an injury-free away season for the Black Caps as World Cup fever slowly grows. In the blink of an eye, May and June will come and go, taking with it either an act of genius or madness by Stead and his selectors.