Ross Taylor, the New Zealand batsman, has said the failure of New Zealand's batsmen to convert starts is what has hurt them in their ODI series loss to Pakistan. Another poor batting effort in Hamilton, on Thursday, saw the hosts go down by 41 runs to give Pakistan an unassailable 3-1 lead in the series. New Zealand lost wickets at regular intervals, as the run chase faltered repeatedly just as a decent partnership appeared to be building.
"Once again we put ourselves in a good position to push ahead in the dying overs but we kept losing wickets at crucial times," Taylor, who captained the side on Thursday in the absence of Daniel Vettori, said. "Obviously the confidence is lower because of that."
New Zealand's batting has failed all too frequently during the series, with the top five often unable to make an impact on the game. Even when the top order have got starts - as they did on Thursday with Taylor and Martin Guptill both hitting half-centuries - none of the New Zealand batsmen have been able to play a definitive innings to swing games in their favour. In five one-dayers, the hosts' highest individual score has been 69, and Taylor identified that as the chief reason behind their losses.
"At the moment we are getting ourselves into a good position and not capitalising. The batters can take a good look at the way the Pakistanis have played. Today, [Ahmed] Shehzad went on to score three figures, Misbah got ninety-odd in Napier and Hafeez got a hundred in Christchurch. Scores of sixty from Guptill and myself are alright sometimes, but when the team needs you, you've got to step up and score a ninety or a hundred like they have.
"The confidence is not quite there and when the confidence isn't there results don't seem to go your way. I don't think we are very far away to be honest. We just need to convert a couple of sixties to big scores and make sure we don't keep losing wickets."
Taylor said his 69 was of little consequence because he was unable to see New Zealand level the series with a win. "I was happy to get a score but it doesn't really mean much when you lose. I got myself into a position when I should have pushed on and I didn't go on."
Taylor did reserve praise for his bowlers, however, who reined Pakistan in during the last ten overs after they had threatened to score in excess of 300. Pakistan were 243 for 5 after 45 overs, with three batting Powerplay overs yet to come, and Shahid Afridi and Umar Akmal at the crease. Canny variations and a slower short ball used to great effect prevented Pakistan from getting away at the death and restricted their total to 268 for nine in 50 overs. Pakistan managed only 25 runs for the loss of four wickets in their final five overs, and Taylor said his bowlers' performance in the end overs boded well for the World Cup.
"I was very happy [with the death bowling]. In Christchurch, we were a little predictable, but the way we changed the pace and manipulated the field today [Thursday] kept the batsmen guessing. New Zealand grounds in general are very small and you need to do that. The way they mixed up their pace was a positive we can take out of this, not only for the next match but for the World Cup as well. Some of the grounds in India are small too."
Jacob Oram and Kyle Mills were particularly impressive, and showed their experience during the batting Powerplay. The pair picked up two wickets apiece. "I've got to give it to Millsy and Jake and even Hamish [Bennett] for the way he bowled his last over. They were looking like scoring well over 300. It was probably a 280, 300 wicket; we were happy to chase that down and we should have got there."
New Zealand will play one more ODI against Pakistan, in Auckland on Saturday, and Taylor said they were eager to salvage what little momentum there is to be taken from the final encounter ahead of the World Cup, which begins on February 19. "There is some urgency to get some momentum with a win [on Saturday]. But I don't think we are far away [from a winning performance]."