10 Jan 2019

Black Caps squad looks strong after Sri Lanka series win

6:40 am on 10 January 2019

Opinion - You can only beat the team put in front of you and a 3-0 one-day international series win over Sri Lanka is nothing to be sneezed at.

No, the tourists weren't much chop, but that doesn't completely diminish the good aspects of New Zealand's 45, 21 and 115-run wins.

Along the way several individuals did meritorious things too.

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Photo: PhotoSport

Kane Williamson's presence probably means Ross Taylor doesn't get the acclaim he deserves. But, year in, year out, and across all formats, Taylor continues to churn out runs as his now-20 ODI and 17 test hundreds would attest.

Taylor can play at various tempos, and access different parts of the ground, making him a pleasing mix of dangerous and dependable.

Williamson had a couple of good knocks against Sri Lanka as well, with Henry Nicholls, Martin Guptill, James Neesham and Colin Munro among the others to play an innings of substance.

Nicholls' 124 off 80 balls in Nelson was timely. Just the man you want wandering in at three-for-not many, Nicholls hasn't appeared so adept at building off an established platform.

Neesham was unlucky to get stuck behind Nicholls and Tim Seifert in the first game of the series, eventually clubbing 47 from 13 balls.

Blackcaps' James Neesham plays a shot during the first ODI cricket match between New Zealand and Sri Lanka at Bay Oval 2018.


Neesham's more than just a hitter, though, and in the right circumstances wouldn't look out of place in Nicholls' spot of No 5.

That's why the latter's knock in Nelson was so encouraging, albeit against a limited bowling attack.

Nicholls hit the ball with intent, rather than just work it around, and was rewarded with a maiden ODI hundred.

What happens to Neesham from here will be interesting.

Fellow allrounders Mitchell Santner and Colin de Grandhomme will have to be accommodated at some point during the upcoming series with India and then the world cup, but Neesham's made himself hard to leave out.

New Zealand coach Gary Stead has said Tom Latham remains the No 1 wicketkeeping option, taking Seifert out of the equation.

Black Cap Martin Guptill plays a shot during the first ODI cricket match between New Zealand and Sri Lanka.

Black Cap Martin Guptill plays a shot during the first ODI cricket match between New Zealand and Sri Lanka. Photo: PhotoSport

You wouldn't want both Nicholls and Latham in the middle order, so presumably Latham opens the batting at Munro's expense.

Legspinner Ish Sodhi does some good things but his inability to bat and field makes him vulnerable. Santner is a fine allround player who could well be the frontline spinner, particularly if Williamson is open to having the odd bowl too.

There'll always be places for Trent Boult and Tim Southee, leaving Lockie Ferguson and Matt Henry to fight over the other quick bowling berth. After a magnificent English county season with Kent, Henry has carried a lot of drinks for the Black Caps and that inactivity was evident at times against Sri Lanka.

Good players are going to find themselves left out of New Zealand's best XI and that's a welcome development with the world cup just months away.

India's arrival could be revealing. First, we have to assume they'll arrive here enthused. After beating Australia in a test series in Australia for the first time, 50-over cricket over here might feel like a chore.

Already fast bowler Jasprit Bumrah has been spared the trip and others could follow.

Let's hope it's a motivated India team that arrive for the five ODIs, starting in Napier on 23 January, who are able to expose whatever frailties exist in New Zealand's side.

This isn't the best Black Caps fielding unit we've ever seen, while death-bowling is a bit of an issue too.

A reliable opening partner for Guptill would be handy, while there's that stack of guys who can bat between five and nine - and who bowl a bit - which needs to be whittled down as well.

Overall, they're pretty minor problems to have.

Hamish Bidwell is a contributor to Radio New Zealand. He has previously worked at The Northern Advocate, Gisborne Herald, Hawke's Bay Today, The Press, The Dominion Post and Stuff.

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