England in New Zealand 2012-13

Rare highs for New Zealand's top order

New Zealand were the better team in the three-Test series, thanks largely to the performances of their batsmen

S Rajesh

March 27, 2013

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Peter Fulton and Hamish Rutherford are all smiles as they walk off the park at stumps, New Zealand v England, 1st Test, Dunedin, 2nd day, March 7, 2013
Peter Fulton and Hamish Rutherford scored three centuries between them in the series, only the second time New Zealand's openers have scored three hundreds in a Test series © AFP
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Over the course of the three-Test series, New Zealand averaged 42.16 runs per wicket. The last time they averaged more than 40 in a series of three or more Tests was against South Africa at home in 2003-04, when they scored 41.54 runs per wicket; the last time they did better than 42.16 was way back in 1991 - at home against Sri Lanka, when they averaged 46.51 per wicket. That, in a nutshell, illustrates just how good this series was for New Zealand.

England were clearly lucky to escape with a drawn series - had New Zealand held on to their chances in England's second innings in Auckland, they could well have lost the Test and slipped to third place in the ICC Test rankings. Both, their batting and their bowling were below par, with only one of their top six batsmen averaging more than 50, and no specialist bowler averaging less than 30. (Click here for England's player averages for batting and bowling.) Matt Prior's consistency with the bat bailed them out - he was easily their player of the series with 311 runs at 103.66, with his back-to-the-wall century being the difference between a series defeat and a draw for them. Prior became only the second wicketkeeper, after Adam Gilchrist, to score a fourth-innings Test hundred in a win or a draw.

For New Zealand, there were several heroes. Three batsmen averaged more than 50, while Trent Boult and Neil Wagner were consistently at the batsmen. Even Bruce Martin, their unheralded left-arm spinner, outshone England's Monty Panesar. (Click here for New Zealand's player averages for batting and bowling.)

Overall stats for NZ and Eng in the series
Team Runs Bat ave Run rate 100s/ 50s Wkts taken Bowling SR
New Zealand 1560 42.16 3.22 3/ 7 45 80.56
England 1572 34.93 2.60 5/ 6 37 78.46

Arguably the biggest gain for New Zealand from the series was a prolific opening partnership. In five innings, Hamish Rutherford and Peter Fulton had two partnerships of more than 50, including a best of 158, and averaged 54.40 per stand (which, incidentally, was exactly equal to England's average for the first wicket). The last time New Zealand's opening pair averaged more than 50 per partnership in a series (with a cut-off of five innings) was in 2004 in England, when Mark Richardson and Stephen Fleming forged a successful combination and averaged 65.66. In eight series since then and before this one, New Zealand's average opening stand was less than 21 five times, while their highest average in a series was 31. Compared to those numbers, an average stand of 54.40 is clearly a huge gain.

Between them, Rutherford and Fulton scored three hundreds, only the second time New Zealand's openers have scored three or more centuries in a series. The previous instance was in a five-Test series in the West Indies in 1972, when Glenn Turner and Terry Jarvis scored three hundreds. That series was drawn 0-0 as well.

Then there was Kane Williamson at No.3, who ensured that the second-wicket stands were fruitful as well. New Zealand's average second-wicket partnership in the series was 74.20, again their highest in a series since that 2004 tour to England, when the second wicket averaged 92.50. All those runs from the top three meant Ross Taylor, at No.4, often had to wait for his turn to bat, which he admitted was unfamiliar for him. "As one of the senior batters, it's nice for others to come in and score some runs. Something I haven't done very much in a New Zealand team is have to wait a couple of sessions to bat. Hopefully I can start getting used to that trend."

Taylor himself didn't have a memorable series, averaging 23.50, and neither did Dean Brownlie at No.5, but then Brendon McCullum made a huge difference to New Zealand's totals, with scores of 74, 69, 38 and 67 not out, in what was his most consistent series. It was his second-most prolific series, and the first time he had three 50-plus scores in a series. It's also the second-best average ever for the No.6 position for New Zealand in a series (with a minimum of four innings). With the lower order scoring usefully as well, it meant New Zealand's average partnerships for each of the first eight wickets was more than 32.

England's top three were pretty solid as well, though Alastair Cook wasn't at his prolific best, but the team's problem was the middle order. Ian Bell made a vital 75 in Auckland, but that was his only half-century of the series, while Kevin Pietersen and Joe Root aggregated 173 runs in eight innings between them.

That showed in England's partnership stats too: the averages for the top two wickets were as good as New Zealand's, but the third to fifth wickets collectively averaged 25.40 runs per dismissal over 15 partnerships, with no century stands, and only two exceeding 50.

Partnership stats for each wicket for NZ and Eng
Wicket NZ-runs Average 100/ 50 stands Eng-runs Average 100/ 50 stands
1st 272 54.40 1/ 1 272 54.40 1/ 0
2nd 371 74.20 1/ 2 351 70.20 1/ 1
3rd 131 32.75 0/ 1 168 33.60 0/ 1
4th 162 40.50 0/ 1 97 19.40 0/ 0
5th 200 50.00 1/ 1 116 23.20 0/ 1
6th 155 38.75 1/ 0 192 38.40 1/ 0
7th 103 34.33 0/ 1 145 36.25 0/ 1
8th 131 43.66 0/ 1 160 40.00 0/ 2

As a bowling unit, there was little to choose between the pace attacks of the two teams. For New Zealand, Trent Boult and Neil Wagner, the two left-arm seamers, took most of the wickets, while England's pace wickets were equally distributed among James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Steven Finn. England's fast bowlers had a better strike rate, but New Zealand's were more economical.

In the battle between the left-arm spinners, though, Martin trumped the more fancied Panesar, who struggled to pick up wickets: his strike rate for the series was 156.4. Martin wasn't the New Zealand spin card, though: Williamson's offspin proved effective too, especially on the last day of the Auckland Test, as he picked up career-best figures of 4 for 44. Overall, New Zealand's spinners averaged 32.20 runs per wicket, which was far better than England's 76.20.

Pace and spin for NZ and Eng in the series
  Wickets Average Strike rate Econ rate 5WI/ 10WM
NZ - pace 29 36.55 82.2 2.66 1/ 0
Eng - pace 32 35.56 64.4 3.31 2/ 0
NZ - spin 15 32.20 82.7 2.33 0/ 0
Eng - spin 5 76.20 168.4 2.71 0/ 0

Head-to-head contests
There were only three instances of a bowler dismissing a batsman three times in a series, and Anderson was the bowler in two of those instances: he dismissed Peter Fulton and Dean Brownlie thrice. Tim Southee was the other bowler to achieve this, against Nick Compton.

The best batsmen for each were dominant against the opposition pace attacks. McCullum scored at more than a run a ball against the combination of Anderson, Broad and Finn, while Prior scored 230 runs and was dismissed just once by Wagner, Boult and Southee.

Head-to-head stats for the series
Batsman Bowler Runs Balls Dismissals Average Run rate
Peter Fulton James Anderson 76 233 3 25.33 1.95
Dean Brownlie James Anderson 37 61 3 12.33 3.63
Nick Compton Tim Southee 63 151 3 21.00 2.50
Brendon McCullum Anderson, Broad, Finn 196 183 2 98.00 6.43
Matt Prior Wagner, Boult, Southee 230 310 1 230.00 4.45

S Rajesh is stats editor of ESPNcricinfo. Follow him on Twitter

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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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