The autumn leaves are falling and Will Young is ballin' over in Australia, but what about the Blackcaps who are actually off the England for the World Cup? There are funky little wrinkles from this three game series vs Australia and while much of it revolves around the upcoming World Cup, Young's form is the most eye-catching.
Results? Who cares. Young had three 50+ scores, two of which were consecutive centuries and we are now dealing with a rather hefty snow-ball of momentum in Young's run-scoring production. This series came after a summer in which Young crept into Blackcaps contention via Aotearoa A runs and Young earned his spot as the next batsmen in line for the Blackcaps Test team. Having been on the domestic circuit for a number of years, piling up runs, Young has graduated from domestic runs to Aotearoa A runs to the fringes of the Blackcaps and this effort in Australia is just another lovely step.
There is something delightful about the step by step nature of Young's development. Far too often we see cricketers earn their Blackcaps call up after a strong summer or sexy performances in the Super Smash etc, Young has paid his dues. Take that on board for yourself; a bit of patience and application over a long period of time is far more beneficial than the rapid rise.
Yet Young won't be at the World Cup. The Blackcaps were searching for an extra batsman for much of the summer in ODI cricket, stemming from Colin Munro not quite sealing his spot as an opener alongside Martin Guptill. If Munro is struggling, who opens and whether that opener is Henry Nicholls or someone else, there is a flow on impact. George Worker and Young felt like the ideal candidates, to at least be tested as part of World Cup preparations.
Neither Worker or Young played an ODI in Aotearoa last summer. Worker himself banged consecutive 50+ scores, in the same games as Young's centuries and it's weird how the same narrative applies to both Central Districts Stags batsmen. My gut vibe is that most kiwi cricket fans would have appreciated either Worker or Young, or both, getting an opportunity to impress ahead of the World Cup. Personally, I want Young batting #3 or 4 and not opening, but the idea of Young being chucked into the mix after Munro was clearly struggling still applies.
Instead, the status-quo remained and Nicholls was settled on as the apparent next best opening option. This came with Nicholls being talked up as a back up wicket-keeper and looking back, it's pretty weird that during this period, Nicholls was hyped as the back up wicket-keeper instead of actually bringing in Tom Blundell to get some experience ... or, like, making his ODI debut.
There's nothing to really take away from Young's run-scoring spree, or Worker's strong work. We know they are capable, we know they should be given opportunities when openings arise and the last week only reinforces that.
Speaking of Nicholls and his wonderful ability to open an innings, he played in just one game and had a first ball duck. It's definitely a bit puzzling that perhaps one of the most important Blackcaps batsmen - given he's a maybe opener, maybe middle order guy - only played one of the three games, although this may have been because of stuff we don't know about. I'm not worried about his first baller (Worker got a second ball duck in the same over), as always I'm more intrigued by the selection and planning.
Also, I operate from a Kiwi County Tour perspective. Hamish Rutherford was having a brilliant Royal London One-Day Cup campaign for Worcestershire in England ... that place where the World Cup is, with three centuries in six games and then had to go to Australia to playing some World Cup warm up games. Rutherford played two games with a 0 and 11, and as he's probably behind Worker in the pecking order, I'm not sure what the point is here.
Especially, when Rutherford's two appearances came at Nicholls expense. Nicholls is going to the World Cup and has a key role in the Blackcaps batting line up, however Nicholls only played one game here and the other two games saw a bloke who was in England and isn't in the World Cup extended mixer, get a crack. Super wtf and Rutherford probably wanted to stay in England where Worcestershire just lost their RLODC quarter-final.
Blundell had scores of 77, 13 and 11. More interesting than the scores, was Blundell batting #4 or #5 and then only wicket-keeping in one game with Tom Latham doing the job in the other two. That's solid preparation for Blundell and regardless of the weird selection journey that led us to Blundell earning a World Cup spot, Blundell will be there pouring pints in England.
Latham won't be pouring pints, he's the numero tahi ODI wicket-keeper in Aotearoa and that is low key crazy. With scores of 13, 69* and 3, swapping batting spots with Blundell (#3 or #4) it was a solid-ish series for Latham. The 69* came with a strike-rate of 102.98 which is handy, given that World Cup scores will be 300+ and as we know Latham will be a middle order starter, his ability to up the ante in the middle stages could be crucial to winning/losing games.
Another World Cup soldier is Jimmy Neesham, who had scores of 15 and 39 while not batting in game two. The 39 came at 144.44sr which was nice given the game scenario and he also got through 25.2 overs across three games. Neesham took 2w @ 6.72rpo, then no wickets @ 5.62rpo and 2w @ 5rpo, interestingly used as the third or fourth bowling option.
Fairly standard Neesham involvement there and how we judge Neesham through the World Cup should come form that baseline. Ideally and realistically, If Neesham can get through 8-10 overs with 2w, conceding less than 6-6.50rpo along with runs with a strike-rate over 120, he'll be doing his job. Of course, the amount of runs matters depending on the situation and Neesham has the ability to suss out a predicament, then bat accordingly; he also has the ability to come in and give the boundaries a big kia ora.
Matt Henry also dished up typical Matt Henry stuff; 3w @ 4rpo in 10ov, 2w @ 5rpo in 8ov. Henry didn't play the second game and 5w in 18ov is a decent return for Henry, although we will have to wait until we are quite deep into the World Cup to gain clarity around the strongest bowling attack. Henry is ticking boxes and is ensuring that he is putting pressure on either Lockie Ferguson or Tim Southee.
Southee, Ferguson, Trent Boult, Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor, Ish Sodhi, Mitchell Santner, Colin Munro and Martin Guptill; none of whom played in Australia.
Again, from my Kiwi County Tour perspective, I don't want Ross Taylor in Australia. Taylor is the only bloke who is genuinely in the best position as he is playing 50-over cricket in England for Middlesex, same format and same country as the World Cup. I couldn't think of better preparation for Taylor.
I highlight those absentees, only because it's the complete opposite of Australia. Every player from Australia's World Cup squad played in this series and that deserves to simmer in your loins for a moment.
In this series, there was one team that had their World Cup squad playing 50-over games in preparation for a World Cup. There was another team, that had five members of their World Cup squad playing. Unfortunately for us, it was Aotearoa who decided to do things differently and I'm now super interested in how this looks, during the World Cup.
Preparation and planning has been the major issue for the Blackcaps since over the past few years. The simplicity in difference of how Australia and Aotearoa treated this three-game series, smells funky. Remember this as we plow forward into the World Cup.
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Peace and love 27.