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The home is where the heart is, and it's also where the runs have been for New Zealand this year
December 15, 2013
Ross Taylor's hundred in Wellington was not only the tenth of his career, it was also the tenth of New Zealand's Test year. That makes it their most prolific calendar year for individual hundreds.
Twice before, in 2001 and 2004, New Zealand have scored nine centuries - in 2001, the hundreds came from four fewer matches than will have been played once the Hamilton Test is complete, but 2004 contained only two fewer Tests.
Six of those hundreds have come at home and only one of the away centuries - Dean Brownlie's 109 in Cape Town - have come in the tough series against South Africa and England. There have been plenty of lows, particularly overseas - where they have been bowled out for 45 in Cape Town and 68 at Lord's - to counter the highs but there are signs that New Zealand's batting is starting to gain a more consistent appearance.
The current top seven have all scored hundreds this year and the lower order - right down to Trent Boult at No. 11, who scored a maiden Test fifty in Bangladesh - is chipping in with valuable runs. There is also some pressure being applied to the incumbents from the domestic scene, particularly by Aaron Redmond, who played the first Test as cover for Kane Williamson, and Michael Papps, another of the over-30s brigade, who is having a prolific season.
Replicating their batting success overseas remains the challenge for those in current possession of places - one they will next confront in Tests when they travel to West Indies in the middle of next year where their difficulties against spin will be preyed upon - but piling on the runs at home is a good place to start and can build belief in the batting order. In their five home Tests this year, only once have New Zealand not passed 400 in the first innings.
"Since England last year we've gone about things very consistently and got ourselves in winning positions," Mike Hesson, the coach, said relieved that one had been converted into a win. "To be able to win one so convincing is very pleasing. We try and get over 400 in each Test and put pressure on that way, get ahead in the game and try to hold it."
And they haven't always had the easiest conditions. In both Dunedin and Wellington, they were inserted on green wickets, with the second of those having the potential for trouble when they slipped to 24 for 2 before Taylor was dropped at slip.
"Early on with the bat, when you get inserted on a tough wicket and lose a couple early, we could have been bowled out for 150," Hesson said. "To get over 400 on a surface which kept offering something was vital."
Another fillip for New Zealand is that their imposing first-innings totals have rarely been replicated by the opposition. In each of the last three home Tests, the follow-on has not been saved so it has not just been the case of all the batsmen cashing in.
Although West Indies batted superbly to make 507 in their second innings in Dunedin their other three displays have highlighted, once again, their problems against the swinging ball. When Hesson was asked what the impact of two collapses, such as the ones in Wellington, can be he admitted they can be tough to come back from - and hoped it was not a situation he would have to confront again in the near future.
"I guess there's always a bit of self-doubt, about are you doing the right things; if you have a bad day, you start asking yourselves those questions," he said. "Without being overly confident, we have strung a fair few Tests together where we've got 400 so hopefully we don't have to think about that in the short term."
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Andrew McGlashan
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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