Plenty of Positives despite Loss

It was a series treated as one of little importance by many, and Australia could have quite understandably considered it an annoyance to travel across the Tasman for ODIs in between home test series, but the series, or at least the last two games, turned out to be among the most exciting matches ever played between New Zealand and Australia. Under the leadership of stand-in skipper Daniel Vettori and without the services of star bowler Shane Bond, New Zealand did themselves proud in Wellington and Christchurch and, it turns out, fell just two runs short of winning the series.

However, it must be said that some problems remain. The batting effort in Auckland, particularly against the pace of Brett Lee, left a lot to be desired and although the Wellington innings was obviously a huge improvement, it could be that Lee was as much off his game in that game as the New Zealand batsmen were on theirs.

Important players Hamish Marshall, Craig McMillan and Nathan Astle all struggled in the series and will desperately want a good score or two against Sri Lanka.

The problem that has consistently troubled the New Zealand ODI team in the last five years returned emphatically once again, the bowling at the death. In Wellington there were 118 and in Christchurch 125 runs conceded in the last ten overs, with 71 runs coming from the last four overs in the latter. This is a problem that must somehow be addressed before the team get on their flight to the Caribbean in 2007.

But of course, in a series in which you win one game and fall two runs short in another, there is no shortage of positives to be drawn from the series for New Zealand supporters. Daniel Vettori showed promising signs in his captaincy and was at his brilliant economical best with the ball, Kyle Mills has continued to develop as an international bowler…in his first spell at least, Lou Vincent has started to play confidently against the best while opening the innings, Scott Styris reached a well overdue good score, and Brendon McCullum continued his remarkable rise.

Despite the fact that the Chappell-Hadlee Trophy is being put on the plane back to Australia, New Zealand can, especially if conveniently forgetting the embarrassment in Auckland, look back at the series with pride in that they first went close to chasing a huge target in Wellington, and then broke records with a successful chase of 332 in Christchurch. If they get their death bowling sorted and Marshall, Astle and McMillan rediscover their form, they could become a consistently competitive side against the very best.

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