January 6th, 2021 will forever be remembered in the eyes of Blackcaps fans as the New Zealand Test team reached the number 1 spot in the ICC Test rankings for the first time in their history.
While there have been comments about how New Zealand struggle away against the bigger boys and how New Zealand don’t deserve it, the numbers show otherwise. The following will show how the current top seven ICC Test-playing nations have fared in home-and-away series since November 2017.
Australia at home: 5 home series (excluding current Border Gavaskar series), 4 series wins, 1 series loss, 80per cent success rate
Australia away: 3 away series, 1 drawn series, 2 series lost, 0per cent success rate
England at home: 6 home series, 4 series win, 2 drawn series, 67per cent success rate
England away: 6 away series, 4 series lost, 2 series won, 33per cent success rate
India at home: 3 home series, 3 series won, 100per cent success rate
India away: 5 away series (excluding current Border Gavaskar series) , 2 series won, 3 series lost, 40per cent success rate
South Africa at home: 7 home series, 5 series won, 2 series lost, 71per cent success rate
South Africa away: 2 away series, 2 series lost, 0per cent success rate
Sri Lanka at home: 3 home series, 1 series won, 1 series loss, 1 series drawn, 33per cent success rate
Sri Lanka away: 9 away series, 3 series win, 1 series drawn, 5 series lost, 33per cent success rate
Pakistan at home (UAE and Pakistan combined): 3 home series (excluding Pakistan vs Bangladesh series due to covid-19 postponing second Test), 2 series wins, 1 series loss, 67per cent win percentage
Pakistan away: 6 away series, 1 series won, 1 series drawn, 4 series lost, 17per cent win percentage
New Zealand at home: 8 home series, 8 series won, 100per cent win percentage
New Zealand away: 3 away series, 1 series won, 1 series lost, 1 series drawn, 33per cent win percentage
As the following numbers showed, only India matched New Zealand’s home success rate while also bettering New Zealand’s away success rate.
But in this time frame, New Zealand have only lost one series where it was a horror tour of Australia featuring some questionable selections in the series.
At home, they’ve had to grind out results late on day five and here are some examples.
New Zealand versus England – first Test, Auckland 2018
Despite England being bowled out for 58 94 minutes into Day 1, rain caused less than 30 overs to be played on days 2 and 3.
As the pitch flattened out in the final two days, New Zealand’s bowlers gave it their all, as a special spell from Neil Wagner ensured England were bowled out for 320 late on day five and a win was secured for the Blackcaps by an innings and 49 runs.
New Zealand versus England, Christchurch 2018
Chasing 382, New Zealand needed to bat over 120 overs to achieve the target or bat for a draw. At 6-162 in the 68th over and the well set Tom Latham departing for 83, the onus was on the Blackcaps lower order to bail themselves out of trouble.
Ish Sodhi came in at 8 ahead of Tim Southee, scoring a patient 56* off 168 deliveries, forming partnerships with Colin De Grandhomme (45 off 97) and Neil Wagner (7 off 103) as New Zealand pulled off a draw and won a Test series against England for the first time since 1999. When their backs were against the wall, New Zealand’s tail wagged for over 55 overs to pull off the improbable.
New Zealand versus England, Mt Maunganui 2019
In response to England’s 353, New Zealand were in trouble at 5-197. But a double century from BJ Watling (205) and a century from Mitchell Santner (126) propelled New Zealand’s first innings total to 9-615 declared.
England fought for a draw, but another spirited spell from Neil Wagner (5-44) on day five ensured New Zealand won by an innings and 65 runs in the final session of play on day five.
New Zealand versus Pakistan, Mt Maunganui 2020
Chasing 373 for victory, Pakistan were in strife at 4-75 2 overs into day five. But a spirited fight back from Fawad Alam (102 off 269) and Mohammad Rizwan (60 off 191) saw Pakistan remain 4 down at tea.
Just as a Pakistan win seemed possible, an injured Neil Wagner, the freakishly tall Kyle Jamieson and the spin of Mitchell Santner combined to pull off a win less than five overs away from Pakistan pulling off a draw.
At home, New Zealand have built the resilience to pull off wins and draws when it looked like the result would favour New Zealand. And this resilience and character would be required on away tours. In the first Test against Pakistan at Abu Dhabi in 2018, Pakistan were cruising towards victory at 3-130 chasing 176.
And then Neil Wagner bounces Asad Shafiq out on the stroke. The wicket would come at a crucial stage as debutant Ajaz Patel (5-59) would end up spinning New Zealand to a 4 run victory as the Blackcaps pulled off a miracle.
Come the third Test/decider, New Zealand were 4-60 in their second innings: still trailing by 14 runs. Enter Henry Nicholls. Nicholls (126*) alongside his skipper Kane Williamson (139) slowly grind New Zealand into a lead and grind Pakistan into chasing 280 on the final day on a rank turner.
With a minimum of 79 overs, New Zealand’s spin duo of Ajaz Patel and debutant Will Somerville alongside Tim Southee led New Zealand to bowl Pakistan out and become the second team after Sri Lanka to win a Test series against Pakistan in the UAE during the 2010s.
A drawn and tightly fought series against Sri Lankan on their deck showed that New Zealand had the spinners to compete and succeed on the subcontinent. The Blackcaps aren’t blessed like the Big Three to play a lot of three Test match series at home or away, yet they’ve humbly gone about their business.
With players such as Will Young, Devon Conway, Ajaz Patel, Will Somerville and Lockie Ferguson around New Zealand Test contention, the Blackcaps are entering an era where they have depth in all facets of their Test side.
This New Zealand side deserves a lot of respect for what they have achieved. The challenge will be to compete in South Africa, Australia, England and India and replicate their home success away from their home shores. They have the bowlers to succeed, but can their batsmen acclimatise in time? That’ll be the question.
While a lot of credit will be given to Gary Stead and Kane Williamson, Mike Henson and Brendon McCullum’s efforts in giving Williamson and Stead the building blocks for this Test side can’t be forgotten.
Former players such Sir Richard Hadlee and Glenn Turner will be gleaming with pride at this current New Zealand side.