New Zealand news February 25, 2016

Boult, Southee fail to meet expectations


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WATCH - Boult takes spectacular catch

At the start of this summer, New Zealand had two bowlers inside the top ten in the Test rankings: Trent Boult and Tim Southee. Australia had one, Mitchell Johnson, and unbeknownst to them he was about to retire. But the inability of New Zealand's attack to take 20 wickets in any of the five Tests between the teams this season was a major factor in Australia's domination and retention, twice, of the Trans-Tasman Trophy.

Perhaps the most surprising thing was that in their home conditions in Wellington and Christchurch, New Zealand's attack, led by Southee and Boult, struggled to find anywhere near as much swing as Australia's fast men. The conditions played a part - Steven Smith won the toss and sent New Zealand in on green pitches in both matches - but Australia also proved capable of finding reverse swing later in the Tests.

The final wicket tally for the five Tests home and away makes for lopsided reading. Josh Hazlewood topped the wickets with 22 at 32.63, Nathan Lyon was second with 20 at 27.75, and Boult was third with 18 victims at the inflated average of 42.11. No other New Zealander took more than 10 wickets across the five Tests and only Neil Wagner and Mitchell Santner, who each played only one Test, averaged under 40.

Southee's tally was especially disappointing. He finished the summer with nine wickets against Australia at 62.77, and rarely looked seriously threatening. Although Southee took 13 wickets at 16.30 in the two home Tests against Sri Lanka that came between the two Trans-Tasman contests, outgoing captain Brendon McCullum said after the loss in Christchurch that Southee could soon face competition for his place.

"It's probably not my question to answer any more. He is a strong leader in the group but Tim's got some challenges in the next little while," McCullum said. "There's other guys coming through who are performing very well, Matt Henry in particular, and it's going to push Tim to make sure he's operating at his best which we saw for a good 12 to 18 months. He's got some challenges but I still believe he's a strong leader in the group and he's just got to smooth out some of his rough edges."

One man who did himself plenty of favours at Hagley Oval was Wagner, who collected match figures of 7 for 166 and was tireless in enacting the team plan of repeated short-pitched bowling to a packed leg-side field. It was a desperate tactic used because the New Zealanders were failing to swing the ball, but Wagner's willingness to bowl long, hard spells will make him an attractive option for the selectors going forward.

"The beauty of Neil is that he makes things happen," New Zealand coach Mike Hesson said. "Even on benign surfaces, where we play the majority of our cricket, he does generate wicket-taking opportunities. I think he got 6 for 70 in the first innings once he decided to bowl 25 overs of bumpers and there are not many people around the world who can do that.

"I have been fortunate enough to work with Neil for a long time, so I know he's a gutsy performer. But I thought the skill he showed, that's a really a difficult thing to do, to get the ball between chest and head consistently and I thought his ability to keep them in that area and keep challenging was world-class and certainly kept us in the match."

Should the selectors decide to grant more opportunities to Wagner and Henry in New Zealand's upcoming Test campaigns, it could mean something of a changing of the guard, with the attack having been based around Southee and Boult for some time. Hesson conceded that choosing New Zealand's attack would not necessarily be as straightforward as it had at times in recent years.

"I think there will be [tough selections]," Hesson said. "Tim and Trent for two years have been exceptional for us but we have different guys in the squad who do different things. We have alluded to Neil. He brings a different option. Dougie Bracewell is a bit different, as is Matt Henry, so within those five we have got, we should be able to get a pretty good attack in all conditions around the world."

New Zealand finished the five Tests against Australia this summer with four losses and one draw, but Hesson said he felt that the battle had been somewhat closer than that scoreline suggested.

"In Australia we felt we were pretty close in Adelaide," Hesson said. "I think over here, to be fair, we weren't close in the end result but certainly felt that if things had been a little different then we might have been able to put a bit more pressure on them."

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @brydoncoverdale

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • jamie on February 28, 2016, 2:31 GMT

    latham, Raval,Williamson, Taylor, Munro, Anderson, Watling, Henry,Craig Wagner, Boult and Sodhi 12th man. How people can put Worker with a first class average of 27 is beyond me.

  • jamie on February 28, 2016, 2:09 GMT

    yes the bowling was a concern at the moment Boult, Henry and Wagner look the best option. A few places in the test batting lineup needs to change, Jeet Raval who is a left hander played a decent amount of first class cricket and has 12 centuries at 43 should be given a chance to open rather than Guptill, he is 27 (mature) and has scored 4500 first class runs. The number 5 should be another left hander, Colin Munro who has a first class average of 48, 29 years old and he can bowl some tidy meduim paces as well. We have enough young batters with potential but need to add some harded first class players like Australia have with Burns and Voges. Henry Nicholl needs to be bought on through playing one dayers and first class experience ( he only has 4 first class centuries). We have no left hand batters in the top order and players who have had time to work out their game need to be given extended time in the test arena. Stantner, Nicholls need time to develop.

  • Neil on February 27, 2016, 10:40 GMT

    Clearly NZ thought that they could repeat the dose that England had dished up to Australia in both Birmingham & Nottingham, and the pitches looked like they might help. Losing the toss twice certainly didn't help them, but there seemed to be a gulf in the skill levels between the NZ & England bowling attacks in helpful conditions. It's hard to imagine that even only having 2nd use of those wickets that Broad, Anderson, Finn/Wood & Stokes would have copped scores of 500. Broad seems to be on the improve, especially where conditions help, as these 2 teams and SA can attest to. The likes of Burns, Khawaja & Voges (sadly not M Marsh ... will he ever improve?) are filling their boots at the moment - take a look at the last 3's averages against Eng. Sterner tests are yet to come.

  • Wayne on February 26, 2016, 21:15 GMT

    @Shane-Oh. I agree to an extent and am not referring to their overall past couple of years records. I refer to this series in particular where the build up, hype and expectation over the ditch was that these two guys would dismantle the Australian batting in home conditions. Their home records against the SC visitors were indeed good and hence the hype (read - expectation) in that context of the word. They did have a bad summer for whatever reason. We had a taste of their form over here where both were plainly carrying injury, something we have experience with, and I couldn't see them turning it around big time in a little over a month but expected to see more in their conditions. They can't really blame the conditions as they had ball in hand on day one of both tests and failed to reverse it later where the aussie bowlers seemed to have no trouble. Boult of course has upside. Southee I'm not sure about? You guys would be able to answer that.

  • Thomas on February 26, 2016, 9:24 GMT

    Very underwhelming. I thought this pair would trouble the Aussies in NZ but our batters did well against them.

  • Shane on February 26, 2016, 7:14 GMT

    @AUSSIENSW - I don't think they were overhyped; their records ovr the last few years speak for themselves in that regard. They just had a bad summer.

  • Blake on February 26, 2016, 6:49 GMT

    @SAMEOLD - wow, great comment. Feel bad for Southee carrying those niggles. All we can do is respect Australia's fast bowling depth, injuries to their key players can be handled far more effectively than ours.

  • Wayne on February 26, 2016, 4:45 GMT

    Boult & Southee whilst good honest performers were a bit overhyped for this series even though the warning signs were there for all to see during the oz leg of the summer. The Australian bowlers just bowled better areas in this series and got the ball to reverse when the kiwis couldn't. The mild undertone of Boults interview after Wellington was one of embarrassment that the kiwis were expected to perform much better at home and couldn't deliver. When looking at the performances and stats of the Australian attack it shouldn't be forgotten that the impressive numbers that they are able to generate have come about from bowling lots of overs at home on the very same batting roads that have people complaining and have supposedly inflated the stats of the Aus batsmen. That makes the performances all the more meritorious and it's no wonder that they relished stepping it up even further with the bit of assistance they got from the NZ conditions. Great effort and won the series for us.

  • Justin on February 26, 2016, 4:41 GMT

    Easily the biggest disappointment of the series were southee and boult. Particularly Boult, who I really rate. Sure, the Aussies did get the better of the bowling conditions - however these were wickets the kiwis prepared, not the Australians. There was something in the wicket the entire second test, yet an inexperienced Aussie batting lineup plundered the Kiwi attack. I really thought the Kiwis would beat Australia at home and away - instead the Aussies smashed them as badly as they ever have. THe kiwis wonder why they don't get to be part of the big 4-5 test series. This is perhaps their best team ever...and they were trounced by an Australian team that couldn't hold a candle to any Aussie team over the past 25 years.

  • Beau on February 26, 2016, 4:28 GMT

    It's no silver bullet that'll fix everything, but I think NZ need to think a little differently about selection. More "this is what the side needs", less "this is the best player we have for this slot". For instance, if Guptill doesn't impress in Africa, why not try an opener like Jeet Raval, who will occupy the crease and let the other guys bat like Australia's Rogers or Burns? For the bowlers, I believe Southee, Boult & Wagner are better than the sum of their parts when bowling together. When you swap Wagner for Bracewell or Henry, it's all a bit samey. Southee in particular bowls too many overs and also tries a lot of variations rather than just grooving line and length. Maybe they should be keeping the two lefties, and rotating the right handers, Southee included? If Santner, Anderson & Neesham can all stay fit, hopefully it'll allow a bit more experimentation with bowling combos. With Santner and KW to back him up, we might even see Ish Sodhi in whites again soon!

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