For a joker like me, the Blackcaps winning the fourth ODI vs India via Trent Boult's magic and doing so by such a hefty margin doesn't offer a whole lot of funk. 5 wickets @ 2.10rpo in his 10 overs and Boult showed his class, something we all know is there. While he wasn't quite as devastating as he was in this outing at Seddon Park, Boult was perhaps the best bowler in the three games prior as well.
That's Boulty, a lad who if the stars align can change a game and if there is one over-arching thought regarding Boult from this series so far; Boult's very good when solid, then he can go to a nek level as well. The issue has been supporting Boult and without Tim Southee consistently performing at the same level, while other less experienced bowlers establish themselves in ODI cricket, Boult has been unable to cash in as often and thus hindering the Blackcaps.
Conditions nicely suited to Boult, are also handy conditions for Colin de Grandhomme. 2 wickets in the 11th over for de Grandhomme reflected how niggly it can be for a new batsman to come to the crease and face a nibbly CDG. Funnily enough, with his 3 wickets, de Grandhomme moved up to 2nd in the Blackcaps bowlers for this series (behind Boult), tied with Lockie Ferguson on 3w but with a better average/rpo. Obviously, that's more reflective of the kiwi bowlers and not de Grandhomme's excellent bowling.
This is where I stop and chill. Because Boult was so dominant, this had an impact on what we learned about de Grandhomme and there is little insight to be gained in sussing out Todd Astle's 2ov (1w), nor Jimmy Neesham's 5 deliveries (1w).
Rolling India for 92, then means that it's hard to get into the nitty-gritty of the batsmen as the game was over within 15 overs of the Blackcaps' batting innings. Martin Guptill scored 14, yet another score below 20 and his third score in a row between 10-20. This can be viewed as Guppy getting starts and at the moment, he's feeling bat on ball for a wee bit, then heading back to the sheds.
Ah, but even then, Guppy faced just 4 balls here, whacked a few boundaries and said 'fuck it'. Not a whole lot of insight to be offered there as Guppy had nothing to lose and yeah, fuck it.
Praise then be to Jah, because the gift for me came as Henry Nicholls opened the innings and this oozed funk. Throughout this series, everyone has had their views on the opening situation and these range from keeping the status-quo to show faith in Guppy and Colin Munro, to giving Will Young a crack - I don't view Young as an opener and his time will come in elsewhere in the top-5.
Nicholls' name never really came into the discussion, despite opening a fair bit for Canterbury in Ford Trophy cricket. Even in the bubble of Young being an opening option; Nicholls genuinely bats in all top-4 spots for Canterbury in Ford Trophy and has a lovely record, while Young is a very good #4, sometimes #3 batsman for Central Districts Stags.
But those are the weeds and I'll stop myself from going full Domestic Cricket Daily hundies on that. Nicholls scored 30* from 42 balls and in keeping with the theme of the day, we can't gain too much insight from such an innings in chasing down a sub-100 total. However, it was a solid start to the experiment and Nicholls was there at the end while Guppy and Kane Williamson couldn't stick around.
The greater implications of Nicholls getting out of the middle order clutter is more interesting though. As long as Tom Latham is batting #5 and the all-rounders who are competing for action in the middle order continue to show a combination of craft, batting nous and power, I'm happy with the idea of ensuring that there are plenty of bowling options among those players.
Compared to the Champions Trophy, this scenario feels different because we generally have better all-rounders and greater competition for these spots. Plus, these guys aren't going to be batting #5 and this is only made possible by having a top-5 who are solid batsmen, low key led by the cornerstone at #5 in Latham. The crux of this is that moving Nicholls up to open, creates space for the best all-rounders to be selected.
With that space, different combinations can be used with greater variety in the bowling group. It starts with Nicholls scoring runs though, that's the single most important thing here and Nicholls doesn't need to go big all the time. I'd compare this to Jeet Raval in the Test team who does a great job of seeing the new ball of, digging in beyond 15 overs and regardless of how many runs Raval scores, he's set up the batting innings for his team.
Nicholls, opening in the ODI team that features high quality in that top-5, could do a similar role but with more ODI swag. Munro can't do that, Munro is a whacker and we all froth over the 'play your natural game' yarn. If Nicholls can get to the 10th over in fairly consistent fashion, with a strike-rate over 80, then those around him can sprinkle their class on the innings.
Coach Gaz came out the gate with this selection, weird and funky but sensible. How it pans out will be a super funky narrative to keep tabs on.
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Peace and love 27.