118 balls is quite a few. It’s two less than the entire number you get in a Twenty20, and 34 more than India won by in the last ODI when Sehwag became the world’s fastest Indian. But Short Of A Length Punter’s Biggest Fan Blog devoted seven of their eight paragraphs to analysis of Dhoni’s captaincy… Interesting way to look at it. Particularly given that the main gripe, that Mahendra took the bowling powerplay immediately after the first ten overs, is a marginal one anyway in my opinion.
I feel like Dhoni could argue that taking the powerplay at that point, defending such an abysmal total, meant that there was more pressure on the batsmen. The way Guptil and Ryder were batting, having men clustered inside the circle waiting for a miscue was as valid a tactic as spreading the field and hoping to stifle. ANYWAY. I’m not going to be drawn into the blame-the-Indians debate. This was New Zealand’s pride-salvaging first win in the ODIs, and deserves celebrating.
So why do I think we won? Because the Indians have only got one gear…
Yeah, I’m going to contradict myself, because, well, this theory is doubly seductive as it allows a glimmer of hope for the test series, beginning Wednesday in Hamilton. Why do I think India has only one gear? Because they’ve yet to provide any evidence to the contrary. In both Twenty20s they did pretty much the same thing as happened yesterday at Eden Park, roared out of the gate, and found themselves unable to slow down and regain composure when wickets fell, eventually limping to totals far lower than you might have predicted after five or ten overs.
The thing is, in the other three completed matches (and the rained off Napier game), it worked for them. Their batsmen, amongst the most bloodthirsty, audacious and skilled ever assembled in one team, went hard at the ball and middled it every time, destabilising our fragile bowling attack and sending them on the way to enormous totals, or cruising to what should have been a testy target (when chasing in Hamilton). Basically, when their gung-ho approach came off, it was a huge win. When it didn’t, a meek loss.
Why should this fill me with hope for the test series? Because there was no discernible change in attitude whatsoever between the Twenty20s and one dayers. Sehwag in particular looks singulalrly incapable of batting at anything but lightspeed right now, but in test cricket you’re allowed to set whatever field you like. I’m not saying ‘we got this’, or anything of that nature, but like I said, this mad, dazzling approach allows room for hope. Hope is, by definition, a little irrational, but after the beating we’ve absorbed over the last couple of weeks, we need a bit of it.
Oh yeah, and New Zealand played quite brilliantly yesterday. Ryder’s superb bowling performance was the clincher for me, he improved his average from 49 to 33 in one game, and if he can do anything like maintain it (or even keep it under 40) then we’re entitled to call him an allrounder. Perhaps the roundest allrounder in world cricket, but if he keeps playing like this then he’ll be one of the most highly regarded too. You still get the feeling that their might be a tragic end to all this. I desperately hope not, and that he has turned a corner, but there’s something about his persona that feels somewhat doomed, as if he’s set up to follow Shane Bond, Geoff Allott and Dion Nash into our flamed-brightly-but-finished-too-soon pile. As I say, I would like nothing more than to be wrong on this.
He was ably supported again by Oram, who must be our best bowler of the series, simply for not getting smashed in two straight games. For a guy picked predominantly as a batsmen, that’s some achievement, though I can’t help but still feel his presence in the team is a little cancerous. Constantly breaking down, rarely able to fulfil his allround duties, in-and-out-of-form… On his day, one of the cleanest strikers of the ball in world cricket, and a nagging medium pacer who’s hard to get away. The thing is, a batting avergae of under 25 in ODIs suggests his day doesn’t come round often enough. He’s not playing in the tests because he might hurt himself again… At nearly 31, maybe it’s time we close that door.
Or at least let the Pigdog back in. Scott Styris did nothing in this match but take an excellent diving catch to dismiss Raina. He got up looking filthy at his captain, and never got a bowl when two guys not dissimilar to him were gorging themselves on wickets at either end. Wouldn’t you love to know what he’s done to deserve this? Was it simply retiring from tests? Or is there some deeper rift. I love Scott Styris, and would much rather have him bat or bowl for my life than our gentle giant Jake Oram.
Other than that… O’Brien’s three wides in four balls really worried me, though he pulled his figures back into shape by the end. He actually looked quicker and sharper than ever, but those wides… we sent down nine in 36 overs, pretty shabby stuff, and no one seemed remotely perturbed by it. There’s a lot to love about our mad-haired blogging bowler, but consistency day-in, day-out isn’t yet amongst them.
So to the tests we go, I think we’ll either get walloped, or it’ll be extremely, heart-poundingly tight. Don’t know why, but those are the two optons I foresee. We find out Wednesday.