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6 takeaways from the NZ vs WI Test series

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New_Zealand_West_Indies_CricketNew Zealand pulled off an emphatic 2-0 win in the home Test series against West Indies. They won the 1st Test by an innings and 67 runs at Basin Reserve in Wellington and the 2nd Test by 240 runs at Seddon Park in Hamilton. The comprehensive margins of victory pointed to the gulf in quality between the two sides. Here are 6 takeaways from the series.

A West Indies resurgence? Not quite.

West Indies seems to have been in terminal decline for a long time. When they won a Test against England at Headingley in August 2017, on the back of a brilliant innings of 147 and 118 not out by Shai Hope, there was talk of a West Indian resurgence. It was felt by many that with the infusion of a few young players, the Windies could once again be a potent force in cricket.

However, their performances against New Zealand showed that their win at Headingley was just a flash in the pan and that they are still a long way from being a competitive side at the Test level.

Colin De Grandhomme is a star in the making.

In the 1980s, Ian Botham, Kapil Dev, Richard Hadlee and Imran Khan were invaluable assets for their sides who lent balance to the team. In the 1990s, players like Jacques Kallis, Shaun Pollock and Chris Cairns were also fine all-rounders. In the modern era, with the exception of Ben Stokes and a few other bits and pieces all-rounders, most teams lack a quality all-rounder capable of justifying a place in the team with both bat and ball. As a result, the balance of the side gets affected.

However, Colin de Grandhomme is a breath of fresh air. In the first Test, he turned the New Zealand innings around with a belligerent 105 off just 74 balls. In the second Test, with the match in the balance at 189/5, he scored a quick fire 58 in just 63 balls. An all-rounder who is capable of scoring quick runs when the team is in dire straits will deflate oppositions and is worth his weight in gold. Even though his bowling has a lot of room for improvement, he has the potential to develop into a world class all-rounder.

Swing is still king (in the right conditions).

Pace is obviously a very useful weapon to have in your arsenal, but having bowlers who can swing the ball is the next best thing. Tim Southee missed the first Test but showed his ability in the 2nd.

These days most batsmen brought up on a diet of limited overs cricket don’t have the technique to counter swing and seam movement. Tim Southee and Trent Boult do not have express pace, but they are always a force to be reckoned with when there is a bit of help from the atmospheric conditions and a nibble in the pitch.

Jason Holder is a liability in this West Indian side.

Ian Chappell once said that it’s hard enough to win cricket matches when it’s eleven versus eleven and it’s even harder when its ten versus eleven. It might seem harsh to say that Holder didn’t contribute, in the first Test he scored a total of 7 runs from 2 innings and conceded 102 runs picking up just the solitary wicket.

While he does a good job marshalling his troops, he does not inspire confidence with his mediocre performances. After 29 Tests, he has a batting average of 29 which is decent but not good enough as a batsman. He has just 53 wickets from his 29 Tests at an average of 38.52 with just one five wicket haul.

Without being uncharitable, he is in the team only because he is the captain. He needs to pull up his socks or be dropped from the team.

Lower order depth is essential in Tests.

Geoffrey Boycott once observed that while batsmen need not bowl, all bowlers have to bat. Even if one does not have genuine all-rounders in a side, the lower order batsmen need to contribute. Gone are the days when a batsman would just bat and a bowler would just bowl.

Grandhomme, Tom Blundell, Southee and Boult all made useful contributions for New Zealand down the order. In the second Test, the West Indies tail did wag a bit, but mostly they fell like ninepins. Even in the great West Indian team of the 1980s and Australian team of the late 1990s, the lower order made meaningful contributions.

Neil Wagner is an underrated star.

Neil Wagner doesn’t get the credit he deserves because he is overshadowed by Southee and Boult. This can be viewed in two ways: it may deprive him of some well-deserved recognition or leave him free to do his job without any undue pressure.

Anyone who picks up 14 wickets in a 2 Test series has to be given his due. He is slippery and makes good use of the short ball. Any bowler who picks up 144 wickets in 34 Tests at just 27.87 clearly has the goods. He deserves to be considered among the best seam bowlers in the world.

 

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