By Niall Anderson in Birmingham
Black Caps coach Gary Stead has admitted he made a mistake in not including Ish Sodhi in his XI to play Pakistan – and it only took him an over to realise the blunder.
Stead and skipper Kane Williamson decided to keep the same XI for the sixth straight Cricket World Cup clash – a New Zealand World Cup record – but it backfired when Sodhi, New Zealand's most attacking spin option, was left out on a wicket that offered prodigious turn.
Pakistan's eventual six-wicket win included economical offerings from Mohammad Hafeez (7-0-22-0) and Shadab Khan (10-0-43-1), while in response, the Black Caps saw Mitchell Santner (10-0-38-0) look both dangerous and restrictive, leading to part-time off-spinner Williamson also rolling the arm over.
Ideally, that secondary spin option would have been Sodhi, unused at the World Cup so far, and Stead admitted as much after the match.
"Ish didn't play because we weren't convinced it was going to spin and in hindsight we got that wrong. The information and intel that we gathered was that it wasn't likely to spin a lot," Stead told Radio Sport Breakfast.
"[We] realised [we'd misread the pitch] in the first over when it spun pretty big … that can happen, we put our hands up - we got that wrong."
Santner's restrictive offerings and Williamson's part-time spin – which claimed the wicket of Hafeez – briefly added pressure to Pakistan's chase as the required run-rate crept over six an over. However, wickets were at a luxury, and Sodhi's aggressive bowling would have been more likely to make the pivotal breakthrough as Babar Azam (101 not out) and Haris Sohail (68) took the game away from the Black Caps with a 126-run partnership.
Even Colin Munro's medium-pace off-cutters were tried - unsuccessfully as he leaked nine runs from his solitary over – with Williamson explaining his reasoning.
"When the threat is spin, especially when the wicket became a lot slower it was still turning square and I even managed to bowl some myself which is unusual. We were trying to get anybody in there that would rotate the ball," said the Black Caps captain.
Stead praised Williamson for filling in, but explained how he ended up with faulty information when analysing how the wicket would play.
"You talk to the groundstaff, you look at other matches here, talk to people about what they think will happen, and the information we were given was that it was likely to skid on rather than spin.
"It certainly felt a lot harder than the first game we played on here as well [against South Africa], but I think with the wicket being under covers all day yesterday as well, it probably just made it a little bit sticky."
The Sodhi selection debate is not the only puzzle Stead will need to solve before the Black Caps' next match against Australia at Lord's, but he's not rushing into any knee-jerk responses.
"We'll let the dust settle and won't make decisions until we get to Lord's and look at the pitch there."
Hopefully for Stead's sake, this time the Black Caps will be able to get an accurate reading.
The Alternative Commentary Collective are podcasting their way through the World Cup. Known for their unconventional sports analysis and off-kilter banter, the ACC have come to ask the tough questions. Here's the latest episode of 'The Agenda':
WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT