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New Zealand's dismal batting slump

Vettori's side have lost 11 of their last 15 Tests against opposition than Bangladesh, and the reason for that has primarily been their hopeless batting

S Rajesh

December 5, 2008

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Daniel Vettori has done his bit with the ball, but hasn't been able to inspire his batsmen © Getty Images

Martin Crowe described New Zealand's innings defeat in Adelaide as "our worst moment in Test cricket". That might be stretching the story a bit, but there's little doubt that one of the finest cricketers New Zealand has produced has reason to feel aggrieved with the manner in which his team has been performing. A side that held its own against the toughest opposition a couple of decades back lurched to their 11th defeat in their last 15 Tests against opposition other than Bangladesh and Zimbabwe over the last two-and-a-half years. This string of losses has pushed them below West Indies to eighth place in the Test rankings.

World-beaters New Zealand have never been, but the situation has rarely been as dire. The 1970s was a pretty bleak period for them, when Glenn Turner was perhaps their only world-class player, but in the 1980s and early 1990s they transformed into a formidable opponent, thanks to the likes of Richard Hadlee, Martin Crowe, John Wright, Jeremy Coney, and many more top-class cricketers. In the 1980s they won more matches than they lost, one of only three teams to do so during that decade. Though the success-rate diminished thereafter, it was still fairly respectable through the 1990s and the early 2000s. Recently, though, it has dropped alarmingly, with only two wins against opposition of some merit since April 2006.

New Zealand in Tests over the years*
Period Played Won Lost Drawn Win/ loss
1970s 41 3 19 19 0.15
1980s 59 17 15 27 1.13
1990s 73 14 32 27 0.43
2000s 57 11 28 18 0.39
Since Apr 2006 15 2 11 2 0.18

A good measure of the real strength of a team is its performance overseas, and against this yardstick, New Zealand is even more dismal. During the glory days of the 1980s they won a highly respectable seven out of 31 Tests, but since 2000 they've had one solitary success against teams other than Bangladesh and Zimbabwe - against West Indies in Barbados in 2002 - in 28 games, during which period they've lost 16. In the last two-and-a-half years, New Zealand have lost eight out of ten times away from home.

New Zealand in overseas Tests over the years*
Period Played Won Lost Drawn Win/ loss
1970s 20 0 11 9 0.00
1980s 31 7 13 11 0.53
1990s 37 5 19 13 0.26
2000s 28 1 16 11 0.06
Since Apr 2006 10 0 8 2 0.00

The bowling has suffered due to the absence of Shane Bond, and injuries to various other frontline seamers, but undoubtedly it's been the stronger of the two suits for New Zealand. Since April 2006, they have conceded 32.56 runs per wicket against the top teams, which is better than the corresponding stat for England, India, Pakistan and West Indies. (Click here for the full list.)

The problem child has been the batting. Losing experienced players like Stephen Fleming, Nathan Astle and Mark Richardson hasn't helped, and the replacements have generally been well below the mark in terms of consistency. Crowe complained about the inability of the batsmen to spend time at the crease, and the numbers prove his point completely: in the 1980s the team averaged more than 71 deliveries per dismissal; in the last two-and-a-half years that figure has come down to a mere 45.59 balls, which translates into a wicket every seven-and-a-half overs.

No wonder, then, that in 25 completed innings during this period, New Zealand have been dismissed 17 times in less than 80 overs, with nine instances of the team being bundled out in 50 overs or less. (Click here for the full list.) Only four times have they batted more than 100 overs.

New Zealand's batting over the decades*
Period Runs scored Balls faced Runs per wkt Balls per wkt 100s/ 50s
1980s 24,344 62,496 27.82 71.42 41/ 102
1990s 31,287 78,261 26.40 66.04 38/ 154
2000s 25,990 56,121 27.67 59.77 38/ 126
Since Apr 2006 6409 12,583 23.22 45.59 6/ 29

As you'd expect, these numbers don't compare favourably with other teams' stats. Australia average nearly 77 deliveries per wicket, which means they survive five overs more per wicket than New Zealand. Even the relatively fragile West Indian batting line-up has managed to last 57 balls per dismissal, almost two overs more than New Zealand.

Team-wise batting comparison in Tests since April 15, 2006*
Team Tests Runs Runs per wkt Balls per wkt 100s/ 50s
Australia 20 11,742 42.23 76.76 33/ 52
South Africa 25 12,910 34.15 68.85 26/ 60
Sri Lanka 17 9171 33.84 66.24 22/ 39
India 27 15,202 34.31 65.39 25/ 81
England 32 16,321 32.19 65.21 39/ 66
Pakistan 15 7976 32.16 64.52 15/ 34
West Indies 19 9400 27.89 57.02 13/ 49
New Zealand 15 6409 23.22 45.59 6/ 29

The lower order has often done its bit to bail the team out, but the big worry for the team has been its top order. Since April 2006, only one batsman, Fleming, has averaged more than 40, and he isn't around any more. Ross Taylor averages nearly 40, but the numbers for the others are quite appalling: Aaron Redmond, Peter Fulton, Matthew Bell and Mathew Sinclair, specialist batsmen all, average under 20. (Click here for more details.)

The tail has done more than its fair share - the last four average 17.10, which is better than their mates from South Africa, England, India and Pakistan - but the repeated failures of the top order means all opposition teams, including West Indies, who play a two-Test series against them later this month, will fancy their chances.

Team-wise comparison of top and lower-order batting in Tests since April 15, 2006*
Team Top-order runs/ wkt Balls per wkt 100s/ 50s Tail runs per wkt Balls per wkt 100s/ 50s
Australia 49.76 89.45 33/ 47 19.87 39.07 0/ 5
South Africa 41.16 82.70 26/ 59 14.38 29.84 0/ 1
Pakistan 38.42 77.64 15/ 31 15.57 29.78 0/ 3
India 41.39 77.46 23/ 74 16.10 34.32 2/ 7
England 38.65 76.64 39/ 60 14.20 33.37 0/ 6
Sri Lanka 39.96 76.32 22/ 33 17.84 39.91 0/ 6
West Indies 34.44 69.69 13/ 45 12.58 27.43 0/ 4
New Zealand 25.67 50.73 5/ 21 17.10 32.77 1/ 8
Top order = Nos. 1-7; lower order = Nos. 8-11

*All stats exclude Bangladesh and Zimbabwe.

S Rajesh is stats editor of Cricinfo

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S Rajesh Stats editor Every week the Numbers Game takes a look at the story behind the stats, with an original slant on facts and figures. The column is edited by S Rajesh, ESPNcricinfo's stats editor in Bangalore. He did an MBA in marketing, and then worked for a year in advertising, before deciding to chuck it in favour of a job which would combine the pleasures of watching cricket and writing about it. The intense office cricket matches were an added bonus.

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