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'Our middle order batting the highlight' - Williamson

New Zealand captain pleased with fight shown despite losing a second successive ODI series decider in India

New Zealand got five full tosses and two half-volleys in the last two overs. Only one of those was hit for a six. In a game that featured 668 runs, it is extremely rare for a side defending to get away with so many errors.
Perhaps if one of those had been connected cleanly, India would have been under more pressure and thus more prone to more mistakes. Perhaps if Colin de Grandhomme had not frozen. Perhaps if he had sacrificed himself when Tom Latham wanted to steal a bye off an MS Dhoni fumble and was left to be run out. Perhaps if Bhuvneshwar Kumar had not got away with a wide on the last ball of the 49th over.
These are exactly the things New Zealand want to stay away from thinking in the aftermath of their six-run defeat as they came heart-breakingly close to what would have been a maiden ODI series win in India. They are led by arguably two of the calmest men in the business. Captain Kane Williamson and coach Mike Hesson do not lack in perspective.
"When you do come so close to victory, you can look at hundreds of different little things and go 'what if', but at the end of the day you can't really do that," Williamson said. "You need to accept it. Whenever you lose, whether it is by one run; or if you win by 100 runs, you still want to learn from the performance and be better next time. I think that's where our focus will be.
"I mean, naturally if you look back at a game, to lose by six runs, having come so close in a big run chase, is frustrating, disappointing, but if you sit back and look at the work that was put in in that batting innings to get so close, it is a really promising thing for this batting unit. Yeah it is hard to swallow, another decider here on India. I think we put in some good performances, but you have got to be at your best when you play this Indian team, especially at home."
Williamson said Hesson's thoughts were not expected to be any different when asked what Hesson brings to the side. "Very calm. He Sheds perspective on things, which is always important. The players are obviously in the heat of the battle, and ride the emotion a little bit. Certainly one of his strengths has been to be able to sit back and look at it for what it is. I am sure his messages will be pretty similar to perhaps what I am talking to you guys.
"Yes it is frustrating, yes you can look at different little things, but at the end of the day there were really good signs. All you can do, I suppose, after any game, whether win or loss, is to move on to your next opportunity. And try to learn from that as best as you can and grow as a team. I am sure these will be our discussions that we will have a little bit shortly."
As for lessons, there were a few satisfying signs in how well they adapted to the conditions, and some not so good ones too. "To come into the first game and adapt and play like we did was really promising," Williamson said. "In the second game, it was a point that we made, reflecting on that loss, that we could have adapted and communicated a little bit better to the change of surface.
"I suppose that brings us to this game. We spoke about it again. And I thought we did it pretty well. On a good surface, on a new ground again, which you do have to, I suppose, think on your feet when you turn up and make those decisions and learn as quickly as you can. Naturally being the touring side, you don't have as much experience on some of these surfaces. There are a lot of good signs."
New Zealand have been a side known for their wicket-taking abilities through ODI innings but in this series they played on pretty decent surfaces and were missing their enforcer Mitchell McClenaghan. In a new role, building pressure through denial, Williamson felt the bowlers did fairly well. "I thought the bowlers stuck at it really well," he said. "Good surfaces. They were able to restrict a lot of the time and put a little bit of pressure despite the very good batting unit that India have."
Even in the defeat in the decider, despite a rare consecutive wicketless match for Trent Boult, the bowlers came back well in the last 10 overs to concede just 85 runs. "I mean if you bowl first, you don't want the opposition to get 337, but it was a very good surface and a very fast outfield," Williamson said. "After the start India got, the way we pulled it back in the last 10 overs was a good effort.
"The way the ball swung early on, you are never far away from perhaps taking some early wickets, but they are a very good batting unit and they played very well today. To restrict them was a good effort, the dew later in the evening was helpful, but you have got to move on, learn from that."
Williamson was mighty impressed with his middle order. "Our middle order with the bat was something of a highlight throughout this series," he said. "Particularly Tom Latham, from opening the batting to coming into the middle order, taking that role, adopting it like he has and batting so beautifully, it was a great sign for us."

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo