Sri Lanka v New Zealand, 5th ODI, Hambantota November 11, 2012

New Zealand need to revisit batting strategy

New Zealand could consider tweaking their batting order in the final ODI in the hope of ending their poor run

With each series that has come to an end for New Zealand in the last two years, their reputation seems to slide further. Perhaps they will not be as disheartened by this series loss, having had to bear the worst of the weather conditions in addition to facing resolute opposition, but farcical as this tour has sometimes been, it still registers as a loss for New Zealand. Once more, they are left scrambling for positive specks against a bleak backdrop of failure. If they cannot reverse their run in the final ODI, their series will go from disappointing to futile. Sadly, New Zealand's situation is not far removed from the plight of sides like Bangladesh, who are often forced to look beyond the teams' performance and to individual achievements, to glean something from each series.

To that end, BJ Watling has been a revelation. He is thought of as a steady accumulator with a sound defensive technique, but in the third ODI, proved he had the strokes to transform a reticent start into a ravishing finish, particularly under the new rule for fielders. Through him, they have also seemingly found a formula to build competitive totals - by conserving wickets early and aggressing through the middle overs. Yet, despite having put up decent scores in two matches, they have not been able to earn themselves a victory.

Trent Boult has been extremely unfortunate not to have more than two wickets to show for his skill and intent throughout the series, but the other bowlers have often been guilty of giving away too many runs. They have been threatening too, but unlike New Zealand, Sri Lanka's top order has had no trouble scoring quickly in the mandatory Powerplay, because it has benefited from too many poor deliveries from New Zealand's fast men. If the Hambantota pitch is as conducive to seam on Monday as it was for the previous match, perhaps the visitors' attack can afford to dial down the effort, focus on consistency and allow the pitch to do the rest.

With nothing to lose in this match, New Zealand could also trial doubling down on their conservative strategy with the bat. At times in this series, and throughout the World Twenty20, Kane Williamson has seemed superfluous in the batting order. When New Zealand are in search of quick runs, which they often are after a slow start, he is pushed down the order, sometimes below the bowling allrounders. If he is going to play in ODIs at all, perhaps his considerable talent should be exploited at No.3 - a batting role his technique seems tailored for. Brendon McCullum has brought results in the top three in the past, but he has been out of sorts of late, and with only four fielders on the fence, he could use his power game to successfully reprise the finishing role he once performed with relish.

This may leave the top three containing Watling and Williamson seeming somewhat pedestrian. But both those players have shown commitment to expanding their game, and the quicker starts may come, if they are given time and trust atop the batting order.

"I'm happy with the form I'm in, but I've got some things to improve on as well," Watling said ahead of the final ODI. "I need to be a bit smarter at the top there and get a bit of a strike-rate going early for myself. Personally that's something I need to address, and I'm looking forward to the next game and hopefully doing so."

"We've got to adjust to the conditions here. It swung for quite a lot of that last game, so we need to be a bit smarter at the top and put up a good score."

With so much rain around, Sri Lanka's seam bowlers are likely to test New Zealand's batsmen on a pitch that will probably retain much of its movement and bounce. The visitors may be forced into being circumspect anyway, which is all the more reason to allow the more prudent among the New Zealand batsmen to bear the brunt of the new-ball barrage. New Zealand need something to lift them out of their funk, a new strategy that has already hinted at better results is as good an avenue as any.

Andrew Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's correspondent in Sri Lanka

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on November 12, 2012, 8:18 GMT

    Why no one in the NZ managment has noticed that the RAIN is going to affect EVERY match, I mean seriously, just tell them its a 20/20 match and that you may get 30 overs if your lucky

    That way they can bat properly instead of this wannabe ODI run rate of 3 per over

  • Chay on November 12, 2012, 1:34 GMT

    People always make excuses for this team. We're always missing someone absolutely necessary, losing the toss or something else that is absoultely critical. People need to face it, these guys aren't that good. The big names never fire unless it's against minnows and the desire to "entertain" has overshadowed the need to do the basics properly and build a solid base. I don't understand people who say the talent is there, there is so little evidence. I can't recall many games that Brendon McCullum has actually won for us with his cavalier attitude but the sheer number of failures and "starts" is staggering. I'm not sure how Guptil would add much to the mix, his batting this year is underwhelming and Ryder is the most selfish, disrespectful player we've had. I certainly wouldn't want him in my team after 2 weeks of domestic cricket during which he managed to lose his rag.

  • Dummy4 on November 12, 2012, 0:04 GMT

    Finally an article on this! Thankyou!

    As far as I'm concerned, most of the batting order is out of position. It should be:

    1. McCullum 2. Watling 3. Williamson 4. Taylor 5. Franklin 6. Nicol 7. N. McCullum 8. Ellis 9. Southee 10. Milne 11. Boult

    When Ryder returns he can go to opener and have Watling at 6.

    I can't see how they can see Nicol as an opening option.

  • Dummy4 on November 11, 2012, 23:27 GMT

    Mark is quite right re batting first. In rain affected matches those who win the toss have a massive advantage. Take into account on paper and result wise Sri Lanka is a better team. What can you expect if you also add home advantage, and winning the toss in every game. Yes New Zealand has some work to do, they need to drop Nicol asap he is out of his league. Although commentator said put B Mac down order. Id suggest, drop Nicol, and put B Mac in to open with Wattling until Guptill is back.

  • Tricky on November 11, 2012, 21:23 GMT

    There is enough talent there. Although questions remain over Williamson's role, as well as Oram/Ellis, neither of which I think should be in the team. N Mac is our bowling all-rounder (who is also an under-rated batsman). Ryder/Nicol/Guptil as 6th option. You simply can't have a batter who they don't want to bat (Williamson) as well as Franklin/Oram/Ellis. They need a specialist batsman in there. While they may not have had 'the rub of the green' with this tour; the tactics are sometimes just plain strange, specifically selection policies. Someone should start to ask questions of the captaincy...

  • Dummy4 on November 11, 2012, 20:35 GMT

    While Sri Lanka have out played NZ during the limited time they've had on the field, I'm pretty sure NZ would probably be up 2-1 or 3-0 in this series had they been the team batting 2nd in each of these games. With the rain, the wetter ball bowling 2nd, and the DL, it has certainly been of a lot of assistance to SL. That's not taking anything away from how they've played, and in particular they deserved to win that first odi which was about 70% chance they would have won anyway if it had gone the 50 overs, the other games were farcical. I thought Boult has been bowling ok, but is slightly overrated by the commentators, swing isn't everything, at times he needs to dial it down a little. He rarely threatened the stumps as his inswinger kept going over the top of the stumps and he regularly bowled balls that strayed down leg. Still he's promising. NZ certainly needs Guptil and Ryder back in at the top of the order, that'd make a big difference.

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