Hesson happy with how New Zealand's T20 XI is stacking up
New Zealand were mindful their recent T20 series wins against Pakistan and Sri Lanka may not mean much for their World T20 campaign in India, but were grateful for having found pieces of their T20 "puzzle", coach Mike Hesson said.
Four victories in those five T20s have lifted New Zealand to fifth on the T20 rankings and, perhaps more significantly, allowed the selectors to zero in on their World T20 squad. Before these recent games, about 17 players had been in the reckoning for that tournament. Hesson said that he and selector Gavin Larsen now have a "clearer" idea of what the final 15-man squad will look like, after "the five dress rehearsals".
"We've got a lot of guys in form," Hesson said. "When you're confident and know your skillset it helps. Most of our top six have had time in the middle. From a bowling point of view, we've been under pressure at times throughout, and we've got better as the series has gone on and come up with better variations. We've set a standard in the field as well, that we'd like to maintain.
"But we also won't get too far ahead of ourselves knowing that the conditions will be very different in India."
One of the strategies trialled this series was Corey Anderson's elevation to No. 4. He had made single-figure scores in two preceding T20s, but came good on Friday, slamming 82 from 42 balls, before later taking 2 wickets for 17 from three overs, having opened the bowling.
"It was another piece of the puzzle wasn't it?" Hesson said of Anderson's innings. "We're very pleased. Corey has worked pretty hard over the last couple of days to get his confidence back. All he needed was to hit a few in the middle and get a bit of time in the middle. We may open the bowling with Corey again, but you can't roll out the same strategy all the time in T20 cricket."
The bowler who returned the figures of the evening was Adam Milne, who claimed three wickets and maintained an economy rate of 2.52 across 3.1 overs. Though not always as miserly, Milne has been penetrative throughout the recent series, taking ten wickets from four outings in all. Mitchell McClenaghan was also cheap on Friday, conceding just 15 from three overs.
"I thought Milne was excellent on Friday," Hesson said. "He did that imposing role that we want him to play. He's a point of difference for us, as is Mitch McClenaghan - they're quite different from our other options. They've got more of an aggressive streak around them, and more variations."
Grant Elliott has also been among the wickets, taking 3 for 7 on Friday, and having picked up six wickets in the three T20s he bowled in prior to that game. New Zealand have stacked the T20 side with "multi-skilled" cricketers, and Elliott is among those giving balance to the XI, alongside the likes of Anderson and Mitchell Santner.
"Elliott has been confident with his variations," Hesson said. "In any conditions, when you give the batsman no pace to work with, that takes out parts of the park they can hit you. He certainly showed excellent control last night, with that."
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando