New Zealand - Marks out of ten June 9, 2008

Fighting against the tide

Cricinfo assess the performance of the New Zealand players after their 2-0 series defeat against England

Despite having moments when they were in control, New Zealand fell to a 2-0 series defeat against England. The key moment came during their collapse at Old Trafford, but as hard as they fought it became increasingly clear that their lack of depth means hopes of improving at Test level remain bleak. Cricinfo assess what each player can take from the series


On the rise: Brendon McCullum slowly moved up the New Zealand order and is one of their few truly world-class players © Getty Images
 
Brendon McCullum - 7
Arrived amid all the hype from his extraordinary 158 in the IPL, and lived up the billing with a belligerent 97 at Lord's after being shifting up to No. 5. Went head-to-head with England's aggression, returning to the crease after a nasty crack on the arm in the first Test, but got sucked into trying too hard to dominate at Old Trafford, where Monty Panesar grabbed him twice. Unable to keep in the final Test, he moved further up the order to No.3. Failed in the first innings, but his 71 second time around emphasised why he is New Zealand's prized asset. Now it's a question of where to bat him. Claimed some stunning salmon-like grabs, but dropped a vital catch at second slip in the final Test. It's different without the gloves.

Daniel Vettori - 7
Midway through Old Trafford, Vettori was ruling the roost. He'd claimed his second consecutive five-wicket haul, helping New Zealand earn a lead of 179. Then it all fell apart and he will always be haunted by the events of Manchester. However, the contest between him and Panesar was enthralling and Vettori's 5 for 69 at Lord's, in seam-bowling conditions, was one the best performances by a visiting spinner at headquarters. England slowly got on top of him and by Trent Bridge he looked weighed down by his team-mates problems. However, he never hid behind excuses and is developing into an impressive leader.

Iain O'Brien - 6
The surprise package among New Zealand's seamers after he was drafted in at Old Trafford. His experience of playing in Wellington was invaluable during the gale-force conditions, and he caused plenty of problems for England's batsmen with his seam movement. Followed up with four wickets at Trent Bridge and was promoted to new-ball bowler, resulting in the scalps of Kevin Pietersen and Tim Ambrose. Will struggle on flatter pitches, but a valuable workhorse. Nothing much on offer with the bat.

Ross Taylor - 6
One major innings in six is not a good enough return for a No. 4, but given the paltry numbers of some of his team-mates it still puts him well ahead of the pack. That one innings was breathtaking, too. His 154 at Old Trafford handed New Zealand the momentum and England's bowlers had no answer to his IPL-style hitting. However, his other innings were characterised by an inability to react to conditions, often dismissed trying something too ambitious, too early. But he can learn selectivity and has a long Test future ahead of him. His slip fielding was also outstanding.

Jacob Oram - 6
A strange series for Oram, who often looked all at sea with the bat, but still managed 231 runs with a fine century at Lord's. He is a far better batsman when he plays his shots and perhaps needs to believe in himself a little more. Admitting his problems against Ryan Sidebottom was refreshingly honest, but more than the opposition needed to hear - even if it was abundantly clear. With the ball he was as miserly as ever, although wickets proved hard to come by with just three in the series. How long the body will hold up for Test cricket remains to be seen.

Jamie How - 6
'Underrated' is one of common words used to describe New Zealand's cricket, and it fits perfectly with How. He continued the gutsy displays he produced during the previous series, showing more stickability than any of his colleagues. He faced 419 balls in the series, the most by a New Zealander, but again failed to convert his hard work into something more substantial. However, he looks the most likely opener of recent times to crack the century barrier.

Daniel Flynn - 5
Will be remembered for leaving the field at Old Trafford with a mouthful of blood and two missing teeth, but his fighting qualities were evident both before and after his nasty injury. Played an important role in guiding New Zealand to safety at Lord's with a 118-ball 29, then responded to a first-innings duck at Trent Bridge with a battling 49. He is compact batsman who, unlike some others around him, doesn't flinch against pace, even after taking one in the mouth. A positive to emerge for New Zealand.


Hard yards: Chris Martin found wickets tough to come by, a key reason why New Zealand let strong positions slip © Getty Images
 

Kyle Mills - 5
Wasn't impressed by the quality of the Duke balls, which had to be changed in every innings, and bowled without luck until the first innings at Trent Bridge, when he finally made a meaningful impact. Would gain more success by bowling a touch fuller, but always ran in hard for Vettori. The body stood up well, too, and there should also be more Test half-centuries to follow his 57 at Old Trafford.

Gareth Hopkins - 4
Coped better than most with the swinging ball at Trent Bridge, after his late call-up following McCullum's back injury. Played within his limitations, but his long-term prospects will depend on whether New Zealand feel McCullum should concentrate purely on batting. Tidy behind the stumps, caught his catches and did his job.

Chris Martin - 4
Disappointing or luckless? It's sometimes hard to know, but the feeling is the latter. New Zealand's strike bowler ended with just four wickets, a key reason why his team couldn't ram home a couple of strong positions. Was at his best at Lord's, struggled with the wind at Old Trafford, and was off-colour at Trent Bridge when Vettori really needed him. But he's still New Zealand's next-best quick unless they can get Shane Bond back.

Aaron Redmond - 3
New Zealand's search for an opening batsman brought them to a 28-year-old former legspinner. Redmond churned out runs in the warm-up matches, including a career-best 146 against England Lions, but was out of his depth at the highest level. Troubled by James Anderson's sharp, late outswing he played with hard hands that always ensured his edges carried. However, given the lack of options in domestic cricket Redmond may get another chance when New Zealand return to Test action in November. It won't be any easier, though, as they face Australia.

James Marshall - 3
An attractive century against Essex raised hopes that Marshall might be able to fill the troublesome No. 3 spot, but as in his previous outings at Test level he was soon found out. Struggled against the swing of Sidebottom and his awful shot against Panesar in the second innings at Old Trafford began the decisive collapse.

Tim Southee - 3
Appeared nervous in his one appearance at Lord's, but slowly improved during the innings. An untimely stomach upset meant he lost his place at Old Trafford, and didn't get it back as O'Brien impressed. Once he develops his strength and stamina he should be a certain pick. No chance to reprise his explosive batting from Napier.

Andrew McGlashan is a staff writer at Cricinfo

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