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A summer of excellence for the Black Caps: Part 1

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Roar Guru
2nd April, 2021
35

To be able to host seven men’s international series and have a full men’s domestic season unscathed during a global pandemic was one of the biggest advantages for New Zealand cricket following the nation’s outstanding response to the coronavirus.

Winning every series at home has been nothing short of outstanding for the Black Caps in what has arguably been their best home summer to date.

The biggest plus point was that the Black Caps didn’t rely on one player, and had an array of match winners in the matches they won. Here’s how the first half of the Black Caps’ summer of cricket went.

First T20 versus West Indies – Eden Park, Auckland
The West Indies were 0-55 after three overs and were set for 250-plus. But Lockie Ferguson’s raw pace (5-21 off four overs) saw the West Indies slump to 5-59 13 balls later. West Indian skipper Kieron Pollard scored a 37-ball 75 as the West Indies posted 7-180 in a rain-affected 16-over affair. Due to rain intervening ten overs into the West Indies’ innings, New Zealand were set a target of 176 in 16 overs.

Falling to 4-63 in the seventh over, the pressure was on the New Zealand middle order to pull off the run chase. And they did. Debutant Devon Conway (41 off 29), Jimmy Neesham (48* off 24) and Mitchell Santner (31* off 18) saw the Black Caps win by five wickets and four balls to spare. The Black Caps’ summer of cricket started off with a highly entertaining and strange T20 and the expectations for the rest of the summer would remain high.

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Second T20 versus West Indies – Bay Oval, Mt Maunganui
With the Black Caps 2-53 in the seventh over, the West Indies sniffed a chance of putting their opposition under pressure. But Glenn Phillips (108 off 51) and Devon Conway (65* off 37) had other ideas as the pair put on 184 runs for the third wicket with New Zealand posting 3-238.

The Black Caps’ bowlers were outstanding, with Kyle Jamieson taking 2-15 off four overs as the West Indies limped to 9-166. The third T20 was washed out 14 balls into the match as the Black Caps won the T20 series 2-0.

First Test versus West Indies – Seddon Park, Hamilton
Following his 14-day quarantine alongside zero match practice, Kane Williamson was back to his sublime best, smashing 251 and forming big partnerships with Tom Latham (86) and Kyle Jamieson (51*) as the Black Caps declared at 7-519. The West Indies looked worse with the bat, losing by an innings and 134 runs by the second hour of Day 4.

Kane Williamson

(Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

Second Test versus West Indies – Basin Reserve, Wellington
Despite many of the New Zealand batsmen getting starts, none converted them into big scores bar a magnificent 174 from Henry Nicholls. A late cameo from Neil Wagner (66*) ensured the Black Caps posted 460 in the first innings.

The West Indies failed to show any resistance in their first innings, posting 131 all out and being asked to follow on. The West Indies showed more fight in their second innings, but 317 would not be enough to make New Zealand bat again as the Black Caps won by an innings and 12 runs.

First T20 versus Pakistan – Eden Park, Auckland
Debutant Jacob Duffy’s introduction to international cricket couldn’t have started any better, taking three wickets in the power play as Pakistan slumped to 4-20 within the fifth over. Contributions from Pakistan skipper Shadab Khan (42 off 32) and Faheem Ashraf (31* off 18) ensured Pakistan posted a competitive score of 9-153. Pakistan chipped away with wickets but Tim Seifert (57 off 43) and Mark Chapman (34 off 20) ensured New Zealand won by five wickets and seven balls to spare.

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Second T20 versus Pakistan – Seddon Park, Hamilton
Pakistan’s top order woes continued as they fell to 3-33 in the sixth over. But the man dubbed the Professor, Mohammad Hafeez, scored a wonderful 99* off 57 balls with Pakistan posting 6-163. Martin Guptill scored a quickfire 21 off 11 before Tim Seifert (84* off 63) and Kane Williamson (57* off 42) breezed New Zealand to a nine-wicket win with four balls to spare.

Third T20 versus Pakistan – McLean Park, Napier
Pakistan’s bowlers picked up wickets with the new ball on a relatively flat surface, reducing the Black Caps to 3-58 in the eighth over. Devon Conway (63 off 45) was the glue in the New Zealand middle order as he ensured New Zealand put up a defendable score of 7-173. New Zealand’s bowlers struggled to make inroads early on as Mohammad Rizwan (89 off 59) ensured Pakistan won by four wickets and two balls to spare. It was a consolation victory for Pakistan. New Zealand won the three-match T20 series 2-1.

First Test versus Pakistan – Bay Oval, Mt Maunganui
On a slow wicket at the Bay Oval, New Zealand patiently batted their way to 431 courtesy of a century from Kane Williamson (129) and half centuries from Ross Taylor (70), Henry Nicholls (56) and BJ Watling (73).

Pakistan were in dire straits at 6-80 before half centuries from Mohammad Rizwan (71) and Faheem Ashraf (91) saw Pakistan avoid the follow on and post 239. Openers Tom Latham (53) and Tom Blundell (64) scored half centuries before the Black Caps upped the ante and declared at 5-180, setting Pakistan a target of 373.

Tom Latham

(Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)

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Having taken four wickets within 40 out of a maximum 128 overs, New Zealand were headed towards an easy victory. But Fawad Alam (102) and Mohammad Rizwan (60) kept on battling hard to draw the game. They forgot one thing though – New Zealand had Neil Wagner. Bowling with fractured toes, Wagner dismissed Alam and began a collapse as New Zealand won by 101 runs with less than 30 balls remaining.

Second Test versus Pakistan – Hagley Oval, Christchurch
Batting first on a seam-friendly Hagley Oval, half centuries from Azhar Ali (93) and Mohammad Rizwan (61) saw Pakistan score 297. The brilliance of Shaheen Afridi, Faheem Ashraf and Mohammad Abbas with the red cherry saw New Zealand in trouble at 3-72 and a possible upset was on the cards.

But that’s where all the fun ended for Pakistan. Kane Williamson (238) put on a mammoth fourth wicket partnership of 368 alongside Henry Nicholls (157) before Darryl Mitchell scored 102 not out as New Zealand declared at 6-659.

Kyle Jamieson continued his dominance with the ball, taking six wickets in the second innings (11 altogether in the Test) as Pakistan were bundled out for 186 in the second innings – losing by an innings and 176 runs. Following this victory, New Zealand went up to number one on the ICC Test rankings for the first time.