Australia v New Zealand, ICC Champions Trophy, final, Centurion October 6, 2009

New Zealand lack last-burst player

The side's only hope lay in a burst of genius but that goes against the very ethos of modern New Zealand sides

After a while you have to wonder about New Zealand. They have been immense getting to this final, spirited and resolute. But a brief spell with the ball apart, for about 20 overs, they didn't look like they were going to go further. They fought and made sure Australia had to break sweat, which is an achievement also because this was an Australia really in the mood. But the deed always seemed done and the ceiling not in danger of being broken.

So the gods have not been kind to New Zealand in this tournament and the highest cruelty was reserved for the final, with Daniel Vettori's late withdrawal. Having been up against it right through, this was the one blow from which they really couldn't be expected to recover. The only hope then lay in a burst of genius from somewhere, some individual, most likely Brendon McCullum, but maybe even Ross Taylor. It goes against the very ethos of modern New Zealand sides but it is what was needed and it never came.

They will and should be proud of what they have achieved here, especially with the circumstances in which they did it. But somewhere alongside, there might also be creeping in this feeling about just when and how and if they will break through that final barrier. The bottom line, harsh as it is, concerns itself only with winning big tournaments and New Zealand have won just one. They had then, in Chris Cairns, precisely the kind of individual who could and did change the course of matches and make a contribution greater than that made by the rest of their parts. Theirs is famously a small pool of talent and their history has been about squeezing out of that just about as much as they can. Occasionally they unearth a diamond and hopes brighten. But when they don't have that kind of player, how to go further, past that last obstacle? Is it even possible with what they have? The dilemma isn't easily resolved.

At moments tonight when they were batting, they looked hopelessly limited against this Australian attack. Typically they hung on, for few New Zealand sides will surrender abruptly, to make a total they could at least think about defending. Shane Bond and Kyle Mills went about the task with mighty hearts and no little skill. Their opening bursts were the most captivating moments of the match. Each ball carried the threat of wickets. In particular Bond was a sight, a reminder of what a special bowler he is.

Injuries and the ICL have taken away from him the aura of old. But he has had a good tournament, slowly working his way back and up to something resembling what he once was. In his first spell he was the famous Bond of 2002, the one who humbled great Australian sides often enough. The lengths he bowled, the pace, and the movement in and out; a solitary wicket was unjust reward.

But once he and Mills were done, New Zealand were again struggling, searching, striving for anything to put them on something remotely resembling an even keel. Ian Butler and James Franklin did all they could, and they bowled well in patches, but they never looked like changing the game. The last hope was the sky-high, top-edged pull off Cameron White, only to be dropped by McCullum. It wasn't simple but it was absolutely vital. A buzz of boundaries came immediately after - as so often seems to be the case when an Australian gets a life - the pressure was released and that was that.

More fancied teams have lost to Australia in big finals so there is no shame in this. But there isn't much joy in it either. That kind of sums up New Zealand not only in this final, another ICC final cursed to eventually be a dud, but beyond that, until and if they ever break through.

Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Amahl on October 7, 2009, 1:12 GMT

    NZ have one game changer. And he wasnt playing in the final. It may be a common joke that Vettori is the best batsman and bowler in his team but when you think honestly, he is really the most consistent. Nobody comes close to him as a bowler in that side and nobody has his consistency and versatility as a batsman. McCullum is highly overrated, it is high time he is to be dropped, its been too long that McCullum has just failed over and over again. I hope though they find a decent alternative, Gareth Hopkins is not international material. Ross Taylor also is very very hit and miss. He can be a nightmare on his day but his day comes all too rarely. Someone in that side needs to be consistent in their batting. The likes of Bond, Vettori, Tuffey and Mills can lead the bowling and do that effectively i think. But the batting needs serious evaluation.

  • Alex on October 7, 2009, 0:41 GMT

    McCullum needs to stop opening. He has won more games for New Zealand batting 7 than he has opening. Guptill and Ryder should open with Taylor at 3, Elliot at 4 and then McCullum at 5 or 6, with Broom at whatever McCullum is not at. Guptill has better success opening than at three (hundred on debut opening and has scored fifties opening), and Taylor has had better success at three. McCullum being later in the innings will also give NZ a better run rate in overs 25-40 where they have recently lacked runs. NZ should also not have Franklin playing and give Patel more opportunities. Jeetan plays very well when in bowling partnerships with Dan. In answer to crazytaurean, Fulton is in the NZ A side (captaining last time I heard). Another player who hasn't been spoken of, and deserves another chance, is Tim Southee. A god youngster who got dropped after being demolished by Tendulkar. He has improved his overall fitness (which was a highlighted problem) and I'm sure is a much better player.

  • surya on October 6, 2009, 19:57 GMT

    well,to be honest kiwis had astle,fleming and mcmillan along with cairns in their ranks before who were genuine match for as the present situation goes,we cant really cant expect much from them..They try as hard as they can but the lack of quality batsman is so obvious..The only thing i expect from the kiwi side is that they field a full strength team..with the return of the tuffey,bond i sense some kind of turnaround but again the likes of oram,mccullum have to step forward..mccullium is seriously over rated and it might not be bad if he comes at 6

  • Gautham on October 6, 2009, 19:45 GMT

    The dependence on one player is against the spirit of NZ. Vettori sure is a vital player, not just in terms of his skills but for his leadership too. His absence was a huge blow but that doesn't take away the failure of other players to rise up. Guptill needs to stop his abrupt middle of the game dismissals. McCullum should be in the middle order, lending support and as a "last-burst" batsmen. At least higher than Broom, if you fear him running out of batting partners.

    It was a mighty effort on their part but the lack of depth was there for all to see.

  • Vinamra on October 6, 2009, 19:24 GMT

    First of all, I think NZ did a great job in this tournament and seemed a much better team since the Indians came as visitors. Also, it was very bad luck that they lost their master mind Vettori and that is when they lost the match. He is the man that puts pressure on the batting when their is no pressure and also the man who keeps the pressure going. As for Fireballers, 20/20 is not Cricket. It has no strategy and requires little skill. A bowler free swinging can hit a 50 in the format. You don't witness the competition displayed in the first 10 overs of Australia's batting in 20/20. 20.20 is ruining the game and destroying its history by creating players that only seek money and fans who expect everyone to hit 4s and 6s which is not what the game is all about. It is about skill, patience, strategy, and most importantly even competition between bowling and batting.

  • Tim on October 6, 2009, 17:56 GMT

    Tony Cozier once described NZ as a champion team rather than a team of champions & they proved this in getting as far as they did in the CT09. However the final performance (200 was at least 60 runs shy of any sort of useful total v Australia- 4 batsmen got in but there was no Watsonion performance) proved what was evident in the earlier games & what every Kiwi cricket supporter has known for ages: the team is hopeless without their captain & inspiration. Dan Vettori's unfortunate injury was one too far & they started the final holed beneath their water line. Dan bestrides NZ cricket like a diffident colossus & he does for NZ what Freddie Flintoff does for England - his very presence lifts the side. I agree that McCullum regularly under performs & he is a poor substitute for DV at the helm. At some point NZ have to consider how they can regroup effectively when Dan is absent.

  • Shreyas on October 6, 2009, 14:29 GMT

    Sad to see NZ lose the final.But hats off to Mills and Bond .What a spell from them.They did all they could to prevent Aussies from chasing the target.

    I think McCullum should be rested and a new WK should be brought in.He has not at all consistent in the last 12 months and someone else should be given a chance

  • Rohit on October 6, 2009, 11:37 GMT

    I agree with Sherazpakistan on the over rated aspect. McCullum is highly over rated and is not in the best of forms. He lacks consistency and should perhaps bat in the middle order to lend some solidity. Let Jesse and Guptill open the innings. Although I am an Indian, and hence dont know much about NZ domestic circuit, but would be curious to know what happened to the Peter Fulton's of the world??

  • Chs on October 6, 2009, 11:37 GMT

    In fairness to Dylgod_NZ Milamber, I don't think a whole bunch of people watch the champions trophy. I'd like to see the crowd report of the entire tournament. In the highlights I noticed empty seats, and this was the final. If the final can't get a full-house then it is proof this game is finished. ODIs need to be replaced with 20/20s. None of my friends ever watch cricket anymore. Who has got the time for it? 8 hours for a single match? That is just impractical.

  • K on October 6, 2009, 11:30 GMT

    NZ has to be one of the most entertaining teams to watch play for the pure reason that whoever they play, wherever they play they will always make sure they're opponent is hopping. If Vettori were playing the final, I would have bet my money on New Zealand.

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