Ross Taylor, the New Zealand captain, has credited his bowlers for adapting to the unusual challenge posed by the reinstalled pitch at the Eden Park during the first Twenty20 game against Pakistan that the hosts won by five wickets. The strip had been reoriented ahead of the match, with the new drop-in track running from north to south, making the straight boundaries shorter than normal, forcing the bowlers to rework their lengths.
"Obviously the square [boundary] is a lot bigger, so if we erred, we erred on the shorter side, so that if they wanted to hit sixes, hopefully they hit it over the bigger boundary," Taylor said. "The angles were a bit easier than before, when it used to be a left-hand batsman's ground. It has now probably evened out to be a more equal batsman's ground."
Pakistan's top order cashed in on the unusual dimensions as they got off to a flier, with Shahid Afridi in particular targeting the short boundaries, and a few mis-hits carrying all the way. The introduction of Tim Southee changed the complexion of the game, as he derailed Pakistan with a smart set of variations, earning a five-for, including a hat-trick. He began his handiwork by nailing Ahmed Shehzad with a slower ball and Younis Khan with a short delivery.
"With the ground a bit bigger squarer, you have got more margin for error with the slower ball and bouncers and things like that," Southee said later. "I think that's the way we went at it, as a bowling unit."
Southee's burst restricted Pakistan to an under-par 143 and, despite the loss of wickets from one end, Martin Guptill ensured New Zealand had the momentum to chase it down comfortably. Taylor credited new coach John Wright for Guptill's refreshing approach at the crease. "With John coming into the side, he's started to get you to trust yourself and go out and play instinctively," Taylor said, "and the way Guptill went out there today was definitely that. I am sure he will get a lot of confidence from that."
Another positive sign for New Zealand was the emergence of the 18-year-old seamer Adam Milne who impressed with pace and bounce on his debut, though his figures of 0 for 46 suggested otherwise. "I thought he bowled well," Taylor said. "There were a couple of times where he was a bit unlucky, nicks and inside edges going for fours which ruined his figures a little bit.
"But he's 18 and he showed good pace and control for a youngster, even though he was getting a little bit of tap around the field, he kept a level head and he's got a big future. He would have learnt a lot from the way he bowled today and the next time he comes on to bowl, he will be a better bowler."