While all the focus and attention has been on favourites England and India, the resurgence of Australia and the batting firepower of the West Indies, another team has gone about their business very clinically with an unbeaten record in the World Cup 2019 so far.New Zealand announced themselves with a bang with a thumping 10-wicket win over Sri Lanka chasing 137 within 17 overs. Though they were pushed against Bangladesh, they registered a comprehensive win over Afghanistan.
New Zealand have always punched above their weight, especially in big tournaments. Their teams in the past have had one or two world-class performers and other utility players. This time, however, there is a difference.
The current New Zealand ODI unit boasts of many match-winners all capable of winning matches with their individual brilliance. They have also been consistent in the last couple of years with an impressive record as a team.
GOOD TEAM FORM
New Zealand have the third-best win-loss ratio (of 1.812) after England and India post January, 2017. They have won 29 and lost just 16 ODIs they have played in this period.
New Zealand have played 12 ODI series/tournaments in this period and won 6 of them. These include victories over Australia in the Chappell-Hadlee Trophy in 2017 and a 5-0 sweep over Pakistan at home in 2018.
While their combined batting average of 35.3 in this period clubs them with Pakistan and South Africa (after India and England), it is their bowling which has been outstanding in this period.
New Zealand has the best bowling average and strike rate amongst all the major teams in the world post 2017.
They have been a potent bowling unit capable of dismissing the best in the business.
TRENT BOULT AND A THREATENING FAST BOWLING UNIT
Trent Boult is the leading wicket-taker in ODI cricket since 2017. In this period, he has picked 77 wickets in just 41 matches at 25.35 apiece at a phenomenal strike rate of 29.2. These include as many as 4 five-wicket hauls and one 4-wicket haul.
Boult has been exceptional with his line and length and has the ability to swing the ball both ways – that makes him the biggest threat in the New Zealand bowling attack. 20 of his 77 dismissals have ‘bowled’ out the batsman – an indicator of his accuracy and immaculate discipline with line and length.
Boult has a tremendous record in ODI cricket. He has picked 150 wickets in 82 matches at 25.02 at a strike rate of 29.7.
While Boult has grabbed the headlines, the efforts of another New Zealand fast bowler have completely gone unnoticed. Lockie Ferguson is a tear-away fast bowler who is capable of generating high speeds. His wicket-taking prowess stands out and he has taken 49 wickets in just 26 matches since 2017.
His average of 24.06 places him at number 3 (amongst fast bowlers) only after Lungi Ngidi and Jasprit Bumrah while his strike rate of 27.5 is also the best amongst fast bowlers only after Ngidi and Liam Plunkett. That is how good Ferguson has been.
Matt Henry is another match-winner with the ball for New Zealand. He has picked 85 wickets in just 44 ODI innings at a sensational strike rate of 27.8 with 7 four-wicket hauls and 2 five-wicket hauls. In fact, his strike rate is the second-best in ODI cricket history (min. 75 wickets) after Mitchell Starc.
New Zealand’s attack is not all-pace and one dimensional. Mitchell Santner is amongst the most restrictive spinners in ODI cricket in the last couple of years. In fact, since January, 2017, his economy rate of 4.66 is the second-best (amongst major ODI nations) only after Mehidy Hasan of Bangladesh.
ROSS TAYLOR – AMONGST THE BEST IN THE WORLD
Ross Taylor has been at the peak of his batting prowess since 2017. He has aggregated 2330 runs in just 43 innings at an average of 70.6 and strike rate of 87.29. Only Virat Kohli has averaged better than Taylor in this period. Taylor’s ability to score big runs at a high strike rate make him a very dangerous batsman at number 4 for New Zealand.
New Zealand has won all the 5 matches when Taylor has crossed a hundred in this period. They have also won 12 of the 16 matches when he has scored a fifty.
Taylor’s career numbers make him an all-time great in ODI cricket – 8156 runs in 205 innings at an average of 48.54 and strike rate of 83.48 including 20 hundreds.
Martin Guptill has been the standout opener for New Zealand in this time-frame. He has scored 1369 runs in 32 innings since 2017 at an average of 48.89 and strike rate of 92.56. He has the ability to be destructive in the powerplay and tear into the best attacks in the world.
Kane Williamson is the playmaker and the most complete batsman in the New Zealand batting line-up. He plays a vital anchor role at number 3 but also has all the shots in the book to accelerate later in his innings. He has scored over 5000 ODI runs at an average of 46.5.
TWO DESTRUCTIVE ALL-ROUNDERS
Jimmy Neesham is a world-class all-rounder who is destructive in the lower middle-order and bowls right-arm medium pace for New Zealand.
He has an impressive batting average of 30.58 batting at number 6 or 7 (mostly) but what stands out is his strike rate. Since his debut in 2013, his strike rate of 112.83 is the fifth-best for any number 6 or 7.
He also has a knack of picking crucial wickets and has an excellent average (31.96) and bowling strike rate (30.7) for an all-rounder.
Colin de Grandhomme is another talented all-rounder who is capable of hitting the long ball with the bat – as his strike rate of 110.62 suggests and is also very restrictive with the ball with an economy of just 5.03.
New Zealand have all their bases covered and have a world class unit capable of going all the way. If conditions continue to remain overcast and the pitches offer their fast bowlers some assistance we could well see a repeat of 1992.
In fact, New Zealand could better it by two matches!