New Zealand can take solace heading into the third and final one-day international against Bangladesh that their batting is capable of winning matches without significant contributions from Kane Williamson, Martin Guptill or Ross Taylor.
Making this judgement against the seventh-ranked side in the format might not be the optimum litmus test, but it is a starting point as plans formulate to show more resolve when Australia arrive for the return leg of the Chappell-Hadlee Trophy next month.
For New Zealand fans, this month’s concession of that silverware made for one of the more stultifying series in the country’s recent cricketing history.
Fears grew that when Williamson and Guptill succumb early, the air whooshes out of New Zealand’s innings balloon and followers should be on red alert for a capitulation.
Williamson, with 31 and 14, and Guptill, with 15 and 0, are yet to excel against Bangladesh, but New Zealand have not panicked with their premature departures.
In fact Tom Latham (137), Neil Broom (109) and Colin Munro (87) have each made their highest ODI score in this series, and Jimmy Neesham produced his best (74) batting at No.4 against Australia in Canberra.
In Christchurch, Latham answered the call for a senior pro to deliver, surviving all but 15 balls of the innings in what was close to the ultimate ODI opener’s knock.
After topping the averages with 61 In India with a strike rate of 89, his case has strengthened as the long-term ODI opening replacement for Brendon McCullum.
Munro’s bludgeoning ensured New Zealand avoided vulnerability late in their innings during the first match. He looked at his best lofting in an arc between deep cover and deep mid-wicket and finished with a strike rate of 143, the highest in the team.
Broom was under more pressure than most, effectively ‘filling in’ for Taylor, whose eye surgery was successful enough for him to score 82 off 41 balls in Central Districts’ T20 defeat of Auckland on the picturesque postage stamp of Pukekura.
“There was a lot on the line,” Broom said of his century. “I wasn’t nervous but was just looking to be natural and clear the mind.”
The Otago batsman proved in a league of his own, and might be considered for the No.5 spot against Australia when Taylor returns. That would shift the scrutiny to which all-rounder should get the nod from Munro, Neesham and a rehabilitating Corey Anderson. Assuming Santner stays as the spin option at No.8, robust competition will ensue at No.6.
Neesham’s effort in Canberra showed grit in the chase for 379, especially when his forearm was bruised on 57 by a 148km/h Mitchell Starc missile. His clean striking, particularly down the ground, is an asset to capitalise on if he can apply himself consistently.
The Nelson crowd was even treated to the return of some Luke Ronchi tonk, as the wicketkeeper-batsman cracked 35, his highest ODI score in 10 innings.
Tim Southee said the bowlers could sympathise as the batsmen adjusted to the pace of what he considered a slowish wicket.
“It was tough early on, the ball was holding and they [Bangladesh] bowled in good areas.”
Having already won the series 2-0, Southee said the motivation for the New Zealanders was to maintain their unbeaten nine-year, nine-ODI run against Bangladesh at home.
“Going to Bangladesh is never easy, they’re great cricketers in their own conditions, so we want to make it as tough for them here.”
Source: NZ Herald