With the ICC World Cup only two months away, selectors will be finalising their preliminary squads before trimming it to 15 lucky men.
As New Zealand sweat over Ross Taylor’s fitness for the series decider, one thing they can be pretty content about is how their middle order has gone about in last six months or so.
With Grant Elliot’s retirement, Luke Ronchi’s inconsistency and Corey Anderson’s hit-miss form, New Zealand had plenty to look after as far as ODI cricket goes. Add to that the absence of talismanic opener Brendon McCullum who was responsible for giving New Zealand blazing starts, particularly in ODI cricket.
While Martin Guptill has done well to give New Zealand a steady start with Tom Latham, they lack the fear factor that McCullum gave them, and their success as individuals or strike rate was far from what New Zealand coaching staff envisioned.
Furthermore, when you have a player as good as Collin Munro batting as low as 5 or 6 that are bound to concern team management.
Taking into consideration this batting conundrum, New Zealand coach Mike Hesson played his masterstroke. Realising that Tom Latham’s success against quality spin in New Zealand’s tour of India, Hesson pushed Latham down the order to No. 4 where he would straightway be up against spin.
And what a trump card that proved to be at Mumbai in his first match as a middle order player against India, combining with Ross Taylor for a 200 run partnership to win the game for his side chasing, which caught Indian off the hook. His contribution was 103*.
In the last ODI chasing a 300 plus score, Latham scored 65 runs to almost taking his side close to victory.
Though Latham missed out this time around the foundation for New Zealand middle order was laid out. He was a biggest positive for New Zealand that series.
Though Taylor-Kane Williamson occupies the most runs scored in a partnership since the start of 2014 in the world with 2500 runs that includes ten century and ten half-century stand, Taylor-Latham is not far behind.
In 16 matches together since 2014 they have scored 1000 plus runs with five half-centuries and three century stands only eclipsed by India’s Shikhar Dhawan-Virat Kohli and England’s Jason Roy-Joe Root.
Coming to this series, Latham scored 84 balls 79 in partnership with Ross Taylor in the first match at Hamilton chasing 270 odd and once again rescued his team in Dunedin after being 86-3 chasing 335, he combined with centurion of the match Taylor to stitch 187 runs partnership thereby calming nerves in the dressing room.
Latham contribution was 67 runs off 71 balls, but it was the support he provided to Ross who played a knock of his life in scoring 181* to level the series.
What has been impressive is his play against the spinner, having swept Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali and coming out of the crease with good effect to keep the scoreboard moving.
With his additional ability to keep wickets, Latham is probably one of the best all-rounders in the country.
While Willamson and Taylor form the kingpin of New Zealand batting, Latham’s addition makes it deadly three-headed combo and augurs well for the Kiwis looking into next year’s World Cup.