Tom Latham began this series with scores of 30 and 45 in the first Test. A decent beginning, a couple starts that he wasn’t able to go on with but he at least showed some touch. Latham stumbled through a lot of the World Cup but he rediscovered some form in the crucial stages so not completely surprising to see him ease back into the Test arena with a few runs, especially not after a brilliant summer against the red ball. Because Latham might be a very useful wicket-keeper/batsman on the ODI scene but chuck him in the Test stuff and he’s a world class opening bat. And just in case you didn’t already know that, he confirmed it with a top notch 154 in the second Test, helping to set up an innings victory.
In his last eight innings in Tests, Tom Latham has scores of 264no, 176, 161, and now 154. Four scores above 150 in his last eight innings, that’s absolutely incredible. He’s up to 10 Test centuries now and his average is up to 44.03, somehow already with 3347 Test runs to his name which is more than Craig McMillan, Chris Cairns, Glenn Turner, Mark Richardson, or Bert Sutcliffe tallied across their entire careers. So of course he scored the most runs and faced the most deliveries of any Blackcaps batsman this series. Across his last eight innings he averages 120.57, since Gary Stead took over he averages 72.53, since the start of 2018 he averages 60.88, since the start of 2017 he averages 58.03. In other words… yeah, he’s world class.
Speaking of recent form, Colin de Grandhomme only batted once in this series but he scored 83 runs from 77 deliveries. After a horrible series in the UAE against Pakistan his Test career looked to be in a fragile state yet since then he’s scored: 49, 1, 71no, 76no, 23no & 83 in Tests. His batting average has risen from exactly 30.00 all the way up to 39.26 and, sure, not outs have had a lot to do with that but three fifties in his last four innings is a big deal for a guy who has a reputation for being rocks or diamonds. His bowling average seems to be steadying around that 30-31 mark too. As long as we’ve got reliable run scorers in front of him, his volatility turns from a cripple to a boost so long may this version of CDG remain.
You know what though? Ross Taylor scored 86 in his first innings and then followed that up with scores of 3 and 23. Kane Williamson meanwhile helped himself to 4, 0 & 20 in his three opportunities with the bat. A mere 24 runs for Kaptain Kane… that’s fewer than Mitchell Santner who didn’t even play the second Test. The last time he went an entire series without a score of 50+ was away to South Africa in January 2013 – which breaks a 23 series streak (and before you ask, 19/25, including the SA & SL ones, were two-Test series so the number of Tests wasn’t a factor).
Williamson – and Taylor too for that matter – is beyond reproach so just gotta cop that one on the chin and assume he’ll make up for it next time. Safe to say he could use the break he’s about to get. That one big innings from Taylor did at least put him up to fourth in averages for NZ and with 112 more runs to his name he’s now just 333 runs away from catching Stephen Fleming for the most runs all time for New Zealand in Tests. Rossco already holds that record in ODIs, of course.
Not a lot to say for Jeet Raval who had a poor series. A couple uncharacteristically soft dismissals in there (though not as bad as Williamson in that regard) and only one start to really speak of. A little concerning: after only being dismissed once for single figures in his first 14 Test innings it’s happened 10 times in his next 18 innings.
Jeet Raval, first 14 Test innings: 619 RUNS | 47.62 AVE | 99.50 AVE BF
Jeet Raval, next 18 Test innings: 455 RUNS | 25.28 AVE | 60.17 AVE BF
He did finally get that first ton out of the way against Bangladesh in the kiwi summer yet that’s not really as important to his role as blunting the new ball and protecting Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor and as you can see from that stat above his average stay at the crease has dropped by more than six overs of average deliveries faced. But this was only his second away tour with the Blackcaps so gotta cut a brother some slack.
Henry Nicholls was quiet. Three starts but nothing big, though at least he was there for the partnerships. He was coming off a vein of form not quite Latham-esque but still he’d scored three centuries and two fifties in his previous six innings coming into this series and even after slipping up here he still averages 64.35 going back to the start of 2018. Not sure if people realise that there are four Blackcaps batsmen in the top five who currently average better than 44 with the bat.
Coming close behind is the lovely redemption story of BJ Watling. Lovely because he’s a top chap and redemption because, well… not so long ago he was dragging that bat around. Nothing drastic here but it had been three full years since his previous Test century when he raised the bat aloft in Colombo. 33 innings in between triple figures. There was a 13-innings stretch in 2016-17 where he didn’t even pass 50 though he’d picked up his production again since then and his hundy here was preceded by a sweet 77 in the second innings in Galle.
BJ Watling’s average rises to 42.91 in away conditions (not including neutrals in UAE – blame cricinfo for that but it makes the stat look prettier), plus it also rises to 40.66 when he’s got the WK gloves and 41.46 when he’s batting in his team’s second innings. And his average when batting at six is 49.19 (25 inns) compared to 35.83 (57 inns) when coming in at seven. Long story short: as you already knew, BJ Watling thrives in the toughest situations.
Hey what do you know, Tim Southee contributed with the bat! He did actually score two fifties in 2018 so you could say he was already in a good bit of nick. He ran himself out stupidly for 14 in his first attempt but followed that up with contrasting 20-somethings – 23 off 62 deliveries with only one four and then, bashing us to the declaration point, 24no from 10 deliveries with two fours and two sixes. One for the critics and one for the fans, basically. Not much else to bother with but Ajaz Patel’s 14 in Galle is his new best Test score (beating 6no, which is a score he’s also been dismissed for three times so he was due to clear that hurdle eventually) while Will Somerville’s 40no isn’t just his best Test score but it’s his best first class score too. He does have a List A fifty though.
SRI LANKA BATSMEN
If Sri Lanka wanna take a peek in the mirror and wonder why they weren’t able to close this series out in a rain affected second Test then they don’t have to look much further than a very inconsistent batting order which wasn’t able to get the numbers that they usually do out of their favourite dudes. Numbers three and four, Kusal Mendis and Angelo Mathews, have fifteen Test centuries between them yet here managed just a fifty each and they weren’t even big fifties either. Averages under 30 for the series too. That’s a lot to overcome – these are the two who put on an unbeaten 274 run partnership to save the Test in Wellington last December, each tonning up in the process.
Add that to a lower order that got a scrappy 40 from Suranga Lakmal in the first Test and other than that had zero individual contributions of more than 14 and there’s a lot of pressure on a few others to carry the scoring. Mathews scored 2 and 7 in the second Test… which is still better than the pair that Kusal Perera managed in Colombo. Poor chap scored just 24 runs in the series and 23 of them came in one innings. Ordinarily if you told him he could have the same number of runs in a series as Kane Williamson he’d probably leap at the idea but not this time, mate.
Oh and Lahiru Thirimanne still has no idea how to bat in Tests. In 35 matches he has an average of 22.64 and that number is shrinking. There was a lovely 64 in that big second innings opening partnership that pretty much won Sri Lanka the first Test but other than that he was dismissed for 10, 2, and 0. His only Test century came in 2013 at home versus Bangladesh. He has more ducks (9) than scores of 50+ (7). Might be a good idea to just focus on the limited overs stuff where he’s a much more effective batsman because he’s probably getting dropped again soon.
When you put it that way, who the hell did score any runs for Sri Lanka!? For starters the captain Dimuth Karunaratne was bloody great. Averaged 61.75 to be comfortably the best performing Sri Lankan batsman and his 551 balls faced across the series were more than double any of his teammates’ tallies and more than any Blackcap too. There was that sensational hundy to win the first Test but even aside from that his fifty in the first innings of T2 kept things together amidst a bit of a collapse until Dananjaya de Silva took over. Karunaratne got starts in each of his other two innings – the final bat coming in at seven where he was forced to bat after being too injured to field. Without his reliable presence up top both openers (Thirimanne and the makeshift K.Perera) were out for ducks, including Thirry inexplicably running himself out in the first over of when they were batting to save the Test. Prior to this series Karunaratne had been going through a little lean patch with only one score past fifty in his past 11 innings so much needed runs from him.
Niroshan Dickwella is always an entertaining fella to watch play cricket and he was pretty solid here too. He top scored for Sri Lanka with 61 in tough conditions in the first innings of the first Test, getting the hosts out to a lead there, and he recovered from a first innings duck in the second Test to pass fifty again in the second innings when nobody else in his team topped 21. When he was dismissed as the ninth wicket it was all but over.
Then we’ve got Dananjaya de Silva whose first Test saw him score 5 and 14no and he only scored 1 in the second Test’s second innings but in between there was a wonderful 109 to get his team through to 244 in the first innings despite five batsmen being dismissed for 2 or fewer. You’re doing pretty well to ton up when you’re mostly batting with tailenders who keep on getting chipped. That hundy is his only score past fifty in his last 14 innings though so a tad more consistency with the big scores wouldn’t go astray.
This was billed as a spinner’s opportunity tour, a rare chance for the Revolutions On The Ball Crew to bowl extended overs for the Blackcaps and, yeah, that’s mostly the way it panned out with Will Somerville and Ajaz Patel bowling the most overs for NZ. Not massively successful in terms of wickets but they each did a solid job. Patel started with a sizzle, taking the first five wickets of the first Test for Aotearoa – following on from five-for in the unofficial rained off warm-up game – and that makes it two fivies in Tests now, both in foreign conditions (he has 0 wickets in 43.0 overs in New Zealand – though he’s only played twice at home)… however he wasn’t as effective in the second innings when Sri Lanka put on 161 for the opening wicket partnership chasing a total of 268 for victory, which they got to with six wickets remaining. Unable to get the breakthrough in the final innings there, neither was Will Somerville.
Tell you what though, they did each get at least one wicket in every innings this series. The new spin twins took a back seat to the seam team in Colombo and Trent Boult and Tim Southee were able to do what Ajaz & Will couldn’t by bowling the Blackcaps to victory… though Ajaz & Will each took three wickets in that Test themselves in supporting roles. Extremely similar stats for the two as well, just that Patel bowled six more overs and took two more wickets – chalk that down to the first innings of the first Test.
But with the assumption that the ball was gonna turn in that one, Mitch Santner and Kane Williamson also got through some overs. Four spinners used in one innings? Surely not. Nah but it happened… it just didn’t happen again after Williamson got called for chucking and Santner was dropped for the second match. It’ll be interesting to see which of the spinners is preferred in the home summer, here are the career averages…
SANTNER: 34 WKT | 39.00 AVE | 3/60 BBI | 2.80 ECO | 83.7 SR
PATEL: 22 WKT | 32.18 AVE | 5/59 BBI | 2.67 ECO | 72.2 SR
SOMERVILLE: 14 WKT | 25.14 AVE | 4/75 BBI | 2.58 RPO | 58.4 SR
Would be nice to compare figures over a smaller time frame since Santner’s been around four years as a Test spinner while Patel and Somerville each debuted less than 12 months ago but that first Test was Santner’s first since December 2017 so nothing overlaps. But in Santner’s last ten matches he averages 51.28 with the ball so with other spinners delivering and with the top order as stacked for runs as it currently is and with Colin de Grandhomme scoring runs in that all-rounder’s spot… not really sure where Mitch Santner sits at the Test level currently. The next couple Test squads should clear that one up (let’s not forget that Ish Sodhi and Todd Astle are on the fringes too).
Good old Southee and Boult, aye? The more things change the more they stay the same and a pair of seamers who have bowled us to many Test wins over the years said bugger it, we’ll do the job. And they did. The two best averages of the kiwi bowlers and they were seamers, so much for taking four spinners then. Boult has always loved a bit of Sri Lanka, he’s surely a Dilmah drinker because the only nation he’s taken more wickets against is England while in Sri Lanka specifically he now averages 18.05 across two tours to the country which is his best average in any country. Meanwhile Tim Southee has more wickets against Sri Lanka than against any other nation and averages 15.47 with the ball across four Tests in two tours in that country which, again, is his best mark in any nation. Who even doubted them?
Tim Southee had a fantastic bounce-back year in 2018 with 29 wickets at 19.03 having averages in the 30s the previous three calendar years. Trent Boult’s obviously been way more consistent of late (averaging <25 for the last three years) but how good to see them taking crucial wickets together on the way to a Test victory? Between them they took 4/32 from 26.2 overs in the final innings of the tour. Southee only took one wicket in the first Test but was back with a vengeance in the second. Boult took three in the first and five in the second.
But perhaps most significant was that they also both passed the 250 wicket mark in Test matches, something only Richard Hadlee and Daniel Vettori had previously achieved for Aotearoa. The race is on for 300 now, s’pose.
Oh and CDG took two wickets, one in each innings that he bowled in, while going at the lowest RPO of any bowler in the series. Just a typical CDG workload.
SRI LANKA BOWLERS
Nobody got through more overs in this series than Lasith Embuldeniya as the young left arm tweaker showed some promising signs in getting through at least 22 overs in all three innings. He’d only played two Test before, taking 5/66 on debut in South Africa, and looks like a fella who could become a fixture at this level. However the wickets weren’t massively forthcoming outside of a 4/99 in the second innings of the first Test – which included getting both Williamson and Taylor out cheap so there you go. But Colin de Grandhomme took a liking to him in the second Test which blew out the figures.
No idea why Suranga Lakmal didn’t bowl more overs than he did. Only 41.2 across three innings. Fewer than Lahiru Kumara too despite Kumara getting tonked at four an over across the series. Lakmal is the senior man in this bowling line-up and he started beautifully with 4/29 in the first innings of the series but then didn’t get another wicket the rest of the way. He was tidy if ineffective in the second innings of that Test but then only got 11 overs as the Blackcaps declared at 431/6 – 115 overs and he got less than ten percent of them in a match where Tim Southee and Trent Boult combined for 11 wickets. Fees like one that cap’n Karunaratne might have misjudged there.
Kumara bowled 25 overs in that innings while taking 1/115 so extremely ungood. The 22 year old hurls some heat and he’s taken four-for or better on six occasions in the 17 Tests he’s played so dude can be a bit up and down. Specifically he took 9 wickets in three innings in Aotearoa last December. Kumara did have one quality spell in the first Test, getting the big breakthrough of BJ Watling’s wicket. Not really a series where the Sri Lankan seamers got to do very much. Curiously Kumara has taken 11 wickets at an average of 63.36 in six home Tests while he has 42 wickets at 31.14 in 11 away Tests. Lakmal’s numbers are closer to each other but he does have a similar disparity with averages of 49.90 at home and 35.81 elsewhere.
Dananjaya de Silva is more of a part-timer with his off-spinners but he usually gets a few overs and here he actually had the best bowling average of any Sri Lankan bowler and any bowler in the series other than Tim Southee. That’s all down to a cheeky 3/25 in the second innings of the first Test. Came in nice and early and got Jeet Raval to lob one up, also coming back to get Hank Nicholls and later on Ajaz Patel to wrap the tail up. He only bowled six overs in the first innings there though and despite opening the bowling off the back of his century with the bat in Test Two he still only got through five cheap and wicketless ones there. 3/25 is actually his best bowling in a Test innings, so that’s cool. Get his average under 50 too… which is useful because it was in the 80s late last year before Sri Lanka toured Aotearoa last December.
Which leaves us with Akila Dananjaya and Dilruwan Perera, who got a Test match each. Akila the Thriller was almost unplayable in the first innings. The mystery man has four 5-fors already in just six Test matches – against Bangladesh, England, New Zealand, and South Africa. He’s taking this thing by storm… in a very underrated Sri Lankan kind of way, and when New Zealand were lingering at 179/5 late on the first day of the series it was Akila with all five wickets. Lakmal then came back and did the damage the next day while Akila and his many variations were somewhat figured out in the second innings as he took 1/84 from 32 overs. Embuldeniya hogging most of them instead. And then, poor bugger, he got booked for a suspect action (along with Kane Williamson) and although he could still have bowled in the second match while the process of the chucking tests was ongoing Sri Lanka opted against that and brought in a seam bowling option in Dilruwan Perera instead. And the old fella did alright, 3/114 in the only innings he bowled in (NZ winning by an innings and all). His presence was part of what relegated Lakmal to a lesser role in that match, Perera bowling a massive 37 overs which is as many as Embuldeniya got through as the main spinner.
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