Thursday, 25 June 2015

A tribute to New Zealand

Thursday, 25 June 2015
Now that the first half of the summer is over and the Australians have landed, it's easy to look forward and turn all attention to the Ashes series looming on the horizon. Instead though, I'm going to take a moment to look back. New Zealand's tour of England has been one of the most enjoyable series in recent memory, with brilliant games of cricket being played across all three formats. 

When New Zealand arrived, English cricket seemed at a crossroads again. A series lost in the West Indies and a shambles at the World Cup had seen Peter Moores depart for a second time, and with the Pietersen saga rumbling on the relationship with the fans had grown even weaker. The progress made at the end of last summer seemed forgotten, enthusiasm among the public almost disappeared. It turned out that New Zealand were the perfect remedy for England's ills, doing more to heal the relationship with the fans than the ECB could dream of doing themselves. Two thrilling test matches, finishing one apiece, that left everyone crying out for a third. An ODI series that went right down to the wire, both teams playing aggressive, attacking cricket and lifting run rates to new heights. A Twenty20 not so one-sided as the scorecard may actually suggest. Everywhere they went, New Zealand lit up the grounds and filled the seats. 

And the players, how the players were brilliant. Brendon McCullum and his captaincy, going on the attack from the very beginning. How refreshing it is to see a captain, always looking for the wickets and not letting up, really making things happen. And with the bat the team would follow his example - in the second test their run rate was up around five throughout. McCullum may have not had the most prolific tour run-wise, but his influence was clear all around. It may not have been the traditional way of playing test cricket, but it sure made an impact. There were the bowlers, Trent Boult and Tim Southee, often attacking as a pair that swung the ball either way. Ross Taylor, a constant nemesis for England in the ODI series. Luke Ronchi, always taking the attack to England straight away, be it an ODI or his test debut. Even Mitchell Santner, just 19 years old and in his first series, made his impact felt, taking a Rashid over for 28 to transform New Zealand's innings in the fourth ODI; taking 3/31 in the last match to nearly bring his team the series. There were so many individual performances that I can't list them all.  

Most of all though, there was Kane Williamson. I feel like he's all I'm writing about at the moment, such has been his impact on this tour. He was just a machine, like a perfect batting robot had been invented to grind England down. Everything just looked so effortless, playing all the shots with such ease, especially in the ODI series where he scored at over a run a ball and would just rack up the runs before anyone could notice. There were no flaws, no obvious ways to get him out - when he was dismissed for a fifty it felt like a surprise. Still only 24 years old, Williamson already has 17 international centuries. We will be watching him score countless more for many, many more years yet. 

The 'spirit of cricket' is often just a myth, but New Zealand made it a reality. There was no sledging, none of the mouthing off that followed the series against India last summer. I'm not against all the aggression and at times I think it's great, but I also just feel that it can detract from the game, be too much of a distraction - as was indeed the case with the whole Anderson/Jadeja saga that stole far too much attention last summer. New Zealand showed there's no need for all of that, playing their cricket with maximum intent but always being the first to applaud their opposition. There's no right or wrong way to play the game, but it was refreshing to see and so endearing, the sort of attitude that gives them their reputation as being everybody's second-favourite international side. 

Simply put, it was a brilliant tour all around. For all that had gone on in England beforehand, all the off-field drama, New Zealand came around and helped put the cricket back on centre stage. They made it the main event, the one that people want to see. The tour may be over, but their impact will still be felt.

Oh New Zealand, please come back soon. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Two Short Legs © 2014