New Zealand have to become better at reacting to pressure situations ahead of the Champions Trophy according to their coach Mike Hesson. In the deciding ODI against South Africa at Eden Park they limped to 149 all out which led to their first home series defeat since 2014.
The Auckland performance followed being turned over for 112 in Wellington earlier in the series, and though the collapses came against an impressive South Africa attack, and were balanced against a match-winning first-innings in Christchurch and the Martin Guptill-inspired chase, there was a sense of vulnerability outside of the big three in Guptill, Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor.
Hesson hinted that there had been an honest appraisal in the aftermath on Saturday's defeat, but said the fact the team had pushed South Africa, the No. 1 ODI side, close was a commendable effort.
"You don't want to state the obvious but sometimes you have to. When we were under pressure the way we responded wasn't where were wanted to be," Hesson said. "I thought we were in a bit clumsy with the bat, some of our decision-making under pressure - from some exceptional bowling - was disappointing.
"It was a heck of a series and a bit of a ding-dong battled against the world No. 1. Wellington was quite different in terms of the surface, that was more nip, but we got put under pressure by a good side and weren't able to deal with that. We'll need to improve in terms of soaking up pressure which two or three times this summer we haven't done as well as we'd have liked."
New Zealand had beaten Bangladesh and Australia on home soil this season and their last series reversal at home was against South Africa in 2014. They have now only beaten South Africa in two out of ten bilateral one-day series, but they did bring an end to their 12-match winning run which had been formed on the back of home whitewashes over Australia and Sri Lanka.
"This was a lost opportunity, that would be a fair reflection," Hesson said. "But most people will acknowledge that we've gone toe-to-toe with the best side in the world which many haven't been able to do for a long time. We fell at the last hurdle, but all in all we've played some pretty good cricket."
New Zealand's next one-day cricket is a tri-series in Ireland during May before the Champions Trophy in which they will be missing the IPL-based players. Hesson said that those matches would be important in answering some lingering questions, topping the list being who will take the keeping gloves between Tom Latham and Luke Ronchi.
Hesson all-but guaranteed they would both be in the squad, and praised the pair's work behind the stumps, but there is a curse on New Zealand's glovemen in terms of runs: not since Ronchi's unbeaten 170 in early 2015 has their wicketkeeper reached an ODI fifty.
"Both Tom and Luke are highly likely to be involved. The series in Ireland will be crucial to get a pecking order," he said. "I've been delighted with the wicketkeeping of both, but no doubt both are short of runs and that's something Tom and Luke are well aware of, probably more than anyone. It's not long ago that Tom was a really good performer for us at the top of the order. We know they are high quality players but have had a tough period."