The final ODI of the series between Aotearoa and India, reflected the difference between the two teams not only in terms of what they are currently capable of on the field but also where they sit on their journeys towards the World Cup. The Blackcaps kinda fought valiantly, when the game was in the balance though that fight slipped out of their cricketing souls and India ended up defending their total of 252 to win by 35 runs.
Killer instinct feels like a foreign concept to this Blackcaps group. Especially after there was little in the way of kicking on from a great start with the ball as India recovered from 18/4 in the 10th over to wiggle their way to 116/5 in the 32nd over. Even then, the Blackcaps could have turned the screws and instead, India bumped their score up beyond 250; India's #6-8 batsmen all scored 30+ and did so with strike-rates that reflected their duties.
This was rolled out again in the batting innings as the Blackcaps were solid, putting themselves in the mix of a successful run-chase. Kane Williamson (39 off 73), Tom Latham (37 off 49), Jimmy Neesham (44 off 32) and Mitchell Santner (22 of 37) all offered hope, in a soft, cuddles type of way. Aotearoa needed ruthless winning instincts though, to seal the game and yeah, nah.
Obviously the two pitches that offered the most for the bowlers in this series, saw the Blackcaps play their most competitive cricket of the series. In this game in meant Matt Henry and Trent Boult being splendid with the new-ball, taking 4 and 3 wickets respectively, both conceding less than 4rpo. They kept coming, to take wickets later in the innings.
For the batsmen, this saw them having to play tough innings and truly test their ODI batting craft. This game required time to get in, catch the vibes and pay respect to quality bowling on a good pitch (none of this 'good' because it's awesome for batting bullkaka), then cashing in and having the skill to let the runs flow. A challenge that many kiwi batsmen took on, without the ability to roll through the gears and ensure victory.
I'll bounce back quickly to offer more specific thoughts on players in the context of the World Cup, hopefully tomorrow. The on broad idea I'll chuck in here along those lines is that this was a fabulous opportunity for Neesham, Colin de Grandhomme, Mitchell Santner and even Todd Astle to showcase their abilities with the bat, or perhaps more importantly; their mindset and whether they can grab an innings to dictate how it finishes.
Hardik Pandya did exactly that. Neesham did well and got a wee bit unluggy uce, so while it would have been great to see him lead the team to victory, shit happens. De Grandhomme is meh at this point and with 14 runs @ 87.50sr (2inns), along with 3w @ 40.33avg/4.84 (3inns) in this series, de Grandhomme has done himself zero favours.
The Santner and Astle knocks were more interesting as they have both been selected for their batting, almost as much as their bowling. With a game-winning knock, or even an innings that took the Blackcaps within a sniff of victory would have been a huge boost for their confidence and World Cup selection hopes. Neither could do that and the de Grandhomme, Santner and Astle all-rounder gang doesn't feel all that encouraging.
Santner was a low key bummer in this series. 39 runs in 3inns, 13avg/58.20sr and that's terrible in terms of runs, as well as his ability to up the ante and whack boundaries. Even more stink, was 1w in 20ov, @ 95avg/4.75rpo. Santner finishes the series with a batting average less that 15 and a bowling average over 90. Crikey.
Everything is all a bit Mitchell Santner for the Blackcaps and kiwi cricket fans right now. The fact that we leave this India series with even more uncertainty than we started with, is the major concern. That concern is however, reason not be be Negative Ned about the World Cup as the Blackcaps are figuring things out (better do that kinda quickly), which is a vastly different position to India.
India know what they are about. This is less about team selection and more about how they operate, their plans and the skill required to execute those plans. They came to Aotearoa sharpened by a tough series vs Australia and flexed for the world to see. India's domination felt like they could win a World Cup in England tomorrow, while for our Blackcaps team at the moment, it's all a bit mismatch-ey ... not quite a bunch of misfits, but close.
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Peace and love 27.