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The positives and negatives of the Black Caps' tour

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Roar Guru
5th January, 2020

The Black Caps’ Test tour is winding down with Australia comfortable winners of the Trans-Tasman series.

In the next week, numerous articles will be written, probably describing this tour in derogatory terms. But this article will look at the factors that contributed to this crushing defeat, and provide a verdict on whether they provided a negative or positive impact on the final result.

Since 2017, the Black Caps have played ten Test series, but importantly seven of these were on home turf. They’ve turned New Zealand into something of a fortress and, along the way, have inflated the reputations and figures of many of its players, in part due to playing series against Bangladesh, the West Indies and Sri Lanka.

Their schedule hasn’t allowed the Black Caps to play sides like India or get more experience playing in different conditions. In an age when home Test sides are generally strong but not so good away from home, this approach to scheduling has not helped the Kiwis get ready for either Australian conditions or a strong attack.

Verdict: a big negative.

The Black Caps selectors decided to name a squad that would play a two-Test series against England then the three-Test series in Australia. It was clear from the outset they had at least one player badly out-of-form (Jeet Raval) and only one spare batsman (Tom Blundell).

Jeet Raval

(AAP Image/Richard Wainwright)

As soon as any issues arose, which they did within a session of the first Test, this selection policy was exposed as being a poor one. In fairness, the team has suffered more than its share of illness and injury, but choosing a team months before a tour to a tough location like Australia was always going to be fraught with danger.

Verdict: a big negative.


The Test side badly needed another week prior to the first Test to get used to conditions, especially the pace and bounce of Australian pitches. The assumption they would be okay to go, having just come off a two-Test series against England, was quickly dispelled by their underwhelming batting in the first two Tests. Their batsmen would have benefited greatly from at least one or even two first-class games, but instead they had to front up to a world-class attack on a challenging Perth wicket with little preparation

Verdict: a big negative.

Much has been made of the tactics Kane Williamson has used in this series, with the two common adjectives being negative and defensive.

It’s important to remember, though, these same tactics at home took New Zealand to second place on the ICC Test rankings. Throw in a drawn series in Sri Lanka and a series win in the UAE against Pakistan and it’s hard to argue about the success of the Black Caps’ approach.

But in this series, three Australian first innings in excess of 400 would suggest they’ve been a complete failure.


Williamson and the Black Caps brains trust seem to have Plan A (bowling a fourth or fifth stump line with either regulation or defensive fields and hope the Aussies made a mistake) or Plan B (throw the ball to Neil Wagner with a stacked leg-side field and hope the Aussies made a mistake). There was no Plan C: make the Aussies play as many deliveries as possible with aggressive field placings because you’re trying to attack the batsman.

Verdict: a big negative.

Prior to this series, we were fed a diet of phrases – the Black Caps have a top six where nearly every batsman averages 40 or more, BJ Watling is the best keeper in world cricket, the Black Caps bowling is a world-class unit, and the like. Sadly, less than a handful of players will leave Australia with their reputations either untarnished or enhanced.

The Black Caps have won only one day in the series and that was day two of the SCG Test, where they took the last seven Aussie wickets and their openers survived to stumps. For a side ranked second in the world, that’s poor.

Their batsmen had no way of consistently combating the Australian attack, their bowlers were not skillful enough to consistently build and maintain pressure, while their fielding – often considered their great strength – has been well below par.

Verdict: a negative.

Key players
Most Aussie fans would not have known much about Neil Wagner as a Test player and many would have questioned why he was ranked so highly in the ICC Test standings. Having seen him perform in the series, there’s no way he doesn’t justify his reputation.

It’s hard to remember a bowler who has consistently charged in and created real doubt in some top quality batsmen, all with a smile and with very little support at the other end.

Neil Wagner

(Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Tom Latham came here with big wraps and has probably done enough to leave with his head held high. He played a couple of good knocks and showed pretty good technique while batting for long periods.

Tom Blundell has been a find, and he and the other Tom are an opening combination the Black Caps can build on. He has taken to the opening role and showed us all what he’s capable of with that great century in Melbourne.

As for the rest of the touring squad, perhaps only BJ Watling gets a pass mark, given the hours he spent behind the stumps in trying conditions, but not with the bat.

The other squad members have not lived up to their reputations. That ring-ins like Todd Astle, Blundell and even Glenn Phillips can outplay the established guys shows just how badly the incumbents have performed.

Verdict: a really big negative.

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Overall, this tour has to be viewed as a huge reality check for both teams. Australia had an inkling of what its attack could do. Now the Aussies know they have at least five world-class bowlers to support two of the best batsmen in world cricket.

The Black Caps have come a cropper but have not been helped by the weather, the rub of the green or injuries to key players.

The reality is, though, this side needs to think about so many aspects of its game, starting with its tour preparation and tactics. It needs to tour more than it has been, and clearly needs to play the top dogs more often than once every three or four years.

The Black Caps will bounce back and will be welcome in Australia. The crowds, certainly for the last two Tests, show fans want to come and watch Australia battle with New Zealand.

Hopefully the next time they tour won’t be too far in the future – and hopefully that contest will be more even than this series.