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The One That Got Away

Mathew Sinclair | 6:56am gmt 17 Feb 2009
Mathew Sinclair BlogIt was a great case for the Black Caps to upset the world champs in their home territory but experience and a bit of Aussie determination foiled their attempts.

The Black Caps went over to Australia with high hopes of retaining the Chappell-Hadlee trophy. With the number of injuries that the current Australian team have been experiencing this young and inexperienced Black Caps team had a perfect opportunity to retain the trophy. No more do we see the likes of Hayden, Gilchrist, Warne and McGrath dominating with both bat and ball. A new combination and direction forced on the Australian team due to injuries and form.

Two fantastic first up wins mainly thanks to good fielding and smart bowling really woke up a sleeping giant. Fielding has always been a high priority in the Black Caps and they strive to be the best in the world at it. The days gone back with Steve Rixon as coach of the Black Caps rated fielding just as important as batting and bowling in the one day game. All it takes is a few great saves here and there putting pressure on the batsman to look at other areas of the field and generating a rash shot.

Adelaide was the start of where the Kiwis let a rampant and determined Aussie side come back and dent the hopes and confidence of the team. Stand out performances from Hussey right throughout his career just show what a talent this guy is and his stats reflect that. Grant Elliott carved out a fantastic big score but lacked major support from others at the top of the order to really test them in chasing more. Ross Taylor impressed me with his control of aggression and starting to look to bat the overs out and creating opportunities for the others to bat around him.

I thought in that game Brendon Diamanti should have played at the expense of Craig Cumming. Brendon gives Daniel Vettori more options with the bat and the ball and as we have seen with Hopes he can do a similar job just as effectively. The mixing up of bowling pace and slower balls on a slow wicket are crucial especially on the Adelaide wicket and Sydney Cricket Ground. Brendon with the bat is no slouch either. When the Stags have been in positions of needing quick runs and some one to clear the ropes I have always looked upon Brendon to do that job. He was finally given a game in Brisbane and although his two overs went for a few, thanks to a rampant Haddin in fine form, it could have all been so different if he was bowling to a new batter but he wasn't and was rightly taken off.

With the bat he showed with a bit of time in the middle what he can do in what ended up as a game dominated by the weather gods. Guptill I thought had a good series for his first tour outside of New Zealand. His strengths are very much dominated on the back foot and the bouncy wickets in Australia suit his style of play and at times wayward bowling from the Australians feeding what we say in cricket terminology his ONION. Vettori was the ever consistent bowler that we expect of him backed up with very little experience to call upon. Mills was impressive as well starting up with the ball and at the death bowling of an innings. New Zealand for as long as I have been playing for the Black Caps struggled to find a closing of the innings bowler. Not an easy job by any stretch of the imagination when batters are looking at hitting the ropes as well as batting power plays. Mills with his accuracy of yorkers and slower balls stalled at the best of times the Australians momentum forward.

The Twenty20 game was a great opportunity to at least come back to NZ with heads held high and claim a positive draw in the games played. Once again Haddin batting dominance and NZ batting smartness let them down. The thing I have found in this format of the game is that if you can execute yorkers and slower balls better than the opposition and create dot balls the chances of winning are higher. From a batting perspective the less balls that you face, with a higher runs tally gives your team greater chances of getting a big score. The Kiwis I believe let too many dot balls go through, putting pressure on the scoring rate. The run rate was very achievable right from the start but we let it slip in this instance coupled with good fielding and tight bowling to the conditions from the Australians.

Ian Butler was an interesting selection but one fully deserving of his chance at this level once again. His ability to hit the block hole bowling and hit the ropes with the bat testament to what has been a very good season for him so far. It almost looks like the selectors are now picking specialist Twenty20 players that are adaptable in any situation. Not a bad selection move and the likes of McGlashan, Franklin, Nathan McCullum have all performed domestically and rightly deserve their call ups.

So where to from now is the headache that faces this Black Caps team with the Indian series just around the corner. From a player looking in at this team, there have been some positives that can be taken away from this trip. A young and relatively inexperienced team has been put through quite a bit on and off the field. The Indians are one of the teams that on New Zealand conditions are out of their comfort zones and I couldn't think of a better time to really show them what we can do in our own back yard. The team has learnt so much and we need to start learning from our mistakes, we know we are hard to beat on our own territory and I can't see it being any different this time.

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Mathew SinclairIt has been a disappointing Twenty20 season for the Stags I must admit. At the start of the season I regularly had people commenting on how well we were doing and what was our secret to success was.

We basically let a lot of basic fundamentals slip away. We were in great positions to win a large proportion of these games but either the pressure got to us or the opposition just batted and or bowled better than us.

One positive out of this whole campaign has been the ability that myself and Dermot Reeve can now look to shape a team over the winter and be ready for next year's campaign. We are going into next year's campaign not only with a view to win but also to pick specialist batsmen and bowlers for any situation. This game can be at times very hit and miss but teams are getting a lot smarter in their approach to it. At times from a captaincy point of view batsmen that are able to reverse sweep and lap the ball make tough decisions for me to set my fields. The next generation of batters will I believe become experts at doing this and exploiting different areas that batsmen rarely go to. Bowlers will have to master their slower balls and have the consistency to hit the block hole on far more occasions. Having the confidence to do this requires a lot of hard practice and commitment but I have found other teams doing this better than the Stags.

We are of course one of the better teams in New Zealand when all our Black Cap guys are back but we can't rely on these guys to be around all the time. That is why it has been a great experiment sitting back and watching teams that are consistently doing well like Otago and learn from what they have done. Otago without a doubt is my team that will go through and win this competition and compete in the Champions Trophy, the balance of their team is spot on and the ease in which they chase and or set a score is far more superior than what I have seen from other First Class NZ teams.

We will and have to get better in all facets of this game but we have still got a great chance to win the four day championship so our focus is now on that.

Until next time I value your comments and sorry that I can't answer everyone's questions that are put forward to me but I will look at something soon to have a chat on line and then you can start firing all your cricket questions at me.

Great article

Very interesting analysis and insights - thanks for sharing.

Great stuff, keep it coming

Awesome stuff Mat! Keep up the great work!

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Mathew Sinclair will be regularly contributing blog pieces for Cricket Web readers to enjoy. His years of experience and ongoing participation in both international and New Zealand domestic cricket will no doubt provide valuable insight to the world of professional cricket at all levels.
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