Aotearoa's Blackcaps slipped up in the third T20I vs Sri Lanka, yet they leave Sri Lanka with a drawn Test series and a T20I series win. There's no shortage of weird little storylines to explore below and to set the tone of the weirdness, Tim Southee emerges from the entire tour of Sri Lanka as a massive winner after it appeared as though Southee may drift into Blackcaps oblivion.
We've sussed out the elongated dip in form from Southee a fair amount on these Niche Cache pages and this continued into the World Cup where Southee barely played a role on the field. A quick turn-around to Sri Lanka now looks like the best thing for Southee as he took 7 wickets in two Tests, with an average of 18.28 and then finished this T20I series as the best Blackcaps bowler with 4w in 12 overs @ 13.50avg/4.50rpo.
Southee has a T20I average in Sri lanka of 16.50 and a Test average in Sri Lakna of 15.47; both of which are his lowest averages per country. Somehow Southee has found the sauce for bowling in Sri Lanka and to be a classy operator in the longest and shortest formats, on foreign soil is a nice little boost for the veteran seamer.
The same can't quite be said about Ish Sodhi, who played two games to average 57 with just a single wicket and 8.14rpo. I suspect many will chuck Sodhi's numbers from this series directly against Todd Astle's 3w @ 7rpo performance in his lone appearance, where he replaced Sodhi in the bowling line up. Sodhi should still have the T20I edge on Astle though, based on a strong body of work with Sodhi averaging under 26 in all but one of his five years playing T20I cricket.
Even with this series in Sri Lanka, Sodhi still has 7w in six games @ 24.85avg. Somewhat interesting is that Sodhi averages 30.63 bowling first in T20I cricket, compared to 18.72 when bowling second and the Blackcaps bowled second in all three of these games. Astle has had his moment and the main idea to focus on for anyone who is in and out of Blackcaps cricket, living on the fringes is what they do next.
What's Sodhi going to do next to make his case for World T20 selection and what will Astle do if given further opportunities? Mitchell Santner feels a wee bit more established in the T20I arena, finishing tied with Southee on 4w and averaging 17/5.66rpo and Santner even scrambled together a few runs. Santner's stats are bumped up by two not-outs, so he finished with an average of 40 and he did so with a juicy strike-rate of 160 which was shared with Ross Taylor as the Blackcaps' best.
Seth Rance and Scott Kuggeleijn had the most to play for from the seam bowling group, which didn't go so well for Rance. The CD Stags seamer took 3w in 11ov @ 40avg/10.90rpo and may warrant a closer look in different conditions, but with plenty of depth to scan through, Rance couldn't put his best foot forward. Kuggeleijn also took 3w, in 10ov and finished with 25.33avg/7.60rpo which is useful and Kuggeleijn feels as though he has more upside than Rance, so expect Kuggeleijn to stay in the mix.
Tom Bruce took his opportunity to crack 53 with 115.21sr, before injury struck. Other than Bruce, the leading run-scorers are all certified Blackcaps; Colin de Grandhomme, Ross Taylor and Santner. Tim Seifert and Daryl Mitchell didn't snatch any headlines, although Mitchell did help steer the Blackcaps to a victory. Both have shown an ability to contribute in T20I cricket and along with Bruce, these lads will need to continue to impress but all three are in my current World T20 squad as it sits right now.
As for Colin Munro, I'm less comfortable saying that he is a certainty for World T20 activities. On the surface Munro should be a mandatory selection and his reputation may be enough to make the final squad, but with 25 runs @ 8.33avg/125sr in this series, Munro is wiggling himself into a spot of bother. This is a continuation of Munro's weak 2019, averaging 22.71 through seven games and this is the first time Munro's year average has dipped below 30 since 2015.
To go with his low key T20I struggles, Munro averaged 25 at the World Cup. Since 2017 when Munro settled into the ODI team and also his role as an opener, Munro is averaging 23.16 and that would be more notable if it wasn't so close to his career average of 24.92. The bar isn't set all that high for someone to surpass Munro in T20I or ODI cricket right now and given the weird shenanigans involving Munro and Henry Nicholls last summer, I'd describe Munro's general Blackcaps standing as precarious.
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Peace and love 27/