Nervy times for Black Caps at Champions Trophy
A few Black Caps regulars might be holding their breath for the annual contract announcement in the wake of some skittery efforts at the Champions Trophy.
Instead of celebrating victory, the New Zealand players were holed up in their central Cardiff hotel early this morning with destiny out of their hands and fingernails being gnawed. After a 10-run loss to England, they needed Australia to upset Sri Lanka, which would book Brendon McCullum's side a daunting semifinal against India.
Semifinals or not, a few members of this 15-man squad have a bit to think about as selector/coach Mike Hesson compiles his 20-strong New Zealand Cricket contract list to be released next month.
Squad members James Franklin, Grant Elliott, Luke Ronchi, Colin Munro and Ian Butler will all be casting anxious glances, while big-hitting all-rounder Corey Anderson looks poised to be the big winner after his surprising, but composed, ODI debut in Cardiff.
Of those not in the ODI squad, Tom Latham, Mark Gillespie and injured pair Andrew Ellis and Bruce Martin also sit on the cusp of the top-20 who receive annual retainers which kick in on August 1.
Franklin is always on the borderline, and two out of the past three years he's narrowly missed the cut. He's a trusted senior member of the squad and close to McCullum, but his credit is running out after some meagre contributions.
Yesterday summed up Franklin's lacklustre recent efforts when he dropped a catch, then had Alastair Cook dropped twice and went for 10-an-over with the ball. Batsmen target him now. He then nicked out for six when playing inside out. Hesson will stare hard at Franklin's name and might consider whether it's time to move on, particularly with Anderson now offering a similar role.
Elliott was first choice in the first ODI but Daniel Vettori's welcome recovery then his tournament-ending calf injury left his future uncertain.
His consistent cameos with the bat and the memory of his excellent South African series might be enough.
Munro and Butler would both have been miffed at being passed over for Anderson yesterday after the latter replaced Elliott in the official squad. Munro's only innings was a first-ball duck at Trent Bridge, while Butler always seems to be the unlucky one and deserved at least one appearance in England.
Gloveman Ronchi is an interesting case but shouldn't be cast aside.
The experiment to open with him backfired and he had a wretched 12-ball stay yesterday with James Anderson and Stuart Broad nipping and swerving the ball about.
His glovework has been sound and he can tear attacks apart, but down in the middle order. In hindsight, Hamish Rutherford or BJ Watling may have been better for the opener's spot, with McCullum now anchored in the middle order.
The captain has led brilliantly in the field but had a poor tour with the bat, poles apart from his memorable home summer. Yesterday's innings summed it up when he scored eight off 17 balls then holed out as New Zealand slumped to 48-4.
New Zealand missed the boat early on when they dropped four catches; three by Nathan McCullum and one by Franklin, which enabled Cook (64 off 47 balls) to open the shoulders. Nathan McCullum then held four more catches as Kyle Mills (4-30), Mitchell McClenaghan (3-36) and Vettori (1-27) continued their excellent form to haul it back.
Then New Zealand weren't up to it against the new ball, Kane Williamson aside who batted magnificently for 67 off 54 with backup from Anderson.
Captain McCullum said the top order collapse was massive in deciding the result after an excellent recovery with the ball. It summed up the cut-throat nature of the Champions Trophy, which was seemingly New Zealand's favourite format.
"It was always going to be a tough competition but after scrambling across the line in that first game [against Sri Lanka] we had ourselves well placed in the remaining two games to make the semi-finals.
"Against Australia we'll never know what would have happened in that run chase. We may have been confident but who knows what would have unfolded.
"Today we had an opportunity and we missed it again. To review the three games; we've bowled brilliantly, we've fielded OK and our batting needs some work."