Black Caps swing kings & submarine cat flaps
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The Black Caps' dramatic third test win versus the West Indies marks the first time they have won three consecutive test series against non-creampuff opponents since 1986/87.
Such a feat is significant for a young team with an average age of less than 26 years old.
Who then are the players that contributed most significantly, and who are the ones preventing the team from reaching even greater heights?
There is only one way to answer that... power rankings.
Power rankings are determined by statistical performance over the past year, how replaceable a player is, comparison to international rivals and how quickly they report match fixing approaches to the ICC (sorry Brendon, just kidding, nobody remembers that!).
All averages mentioned are luck adjusted batting/bowling averages from the West Indies three test series.
These numbers factor in any good or bad luck a player has had and adjusts his actual average accordingly. This gives a truer reflection of their performance level. See how it's calculated here.
Tim Southee - bowling average: 13.10.
Trent Boult - bowling average: 26.90.
The kings of swing have become the greatest strength of a rapidly improving Black Caps test team. Since March 2013 they have taken a combined 102 wickets at an average of 22.10. That figure rates them as the best opening attack in the world, comfortably ahead of South Africa's Steyn-Philander (25.80), England's Broad-Anderson (26.00) and Australia's Johnson-Harris (26.40).
Southee in particular was stellar against the Windies. His pinpoint control both contained the batsmen (2.40 RPO) and created more wicket chances than any other bowler in conditions that often were not pace friendly.
Kane Williamson - batting average: 43.00 and bowling average: 26.70.
His man of the series performance was aided by of a healthy dollop of good fortune as noted by the large difference between his average (82.60) and his luck adjusted average (43.00). That is not a knock on his performance, but a reminder of how special his performances were.
At age 23 he is beginning to fulfil the promise of being New Zealand's best test batsman since Martin Crowe.
Ross Taylor - batting average: 29.70.
A quiet series with the bat by his own lofty standards. Contributed several useful scores without kicking onto the match winning innings he played in the New Zealand summer. His catching at slip remains Fleming-esque.
Brendon McCullum - batting average: 20.70.
A poor series with the bat for the skipper, after his strong home summer. In the second innings of the second test he reminded everyone why he cannot be (and never should have been) considered as an opening batsman.
His captaincy remains aggressive and refreshingly proactive, and showed improved coin toss skills.
BJ Watling - batting average: 49.29.
Watling continues to develop in his role of lower order anchor. Having a slow scoring player (38 strike-rate) with his grit and determination provides an ideal foil to the aggressive middle/lower order players around him.
His glove work was of a high standard, easily superior to West Indies keeper Dinesh Ramdin.
YOU HAD ME AT HELLO
Tom Latham - batting average: 40.00
Jimmy Neesham - batting average: 66.20 and bowling average: 40.10
A tremendous debut series for both Latham and Neesham. They were composed and showed maturity well beyond their years. Neesham in particular will need to maintain a high standard with Corey Anderson pushing for the all rounder slot.
The only questions that can be raised of these performances is how will they adapt when other sides become more familiar with their strengths and weaknesses. Anyone remember what happened to Hamish Rutherford and Matthew Sinclair after their debuts?
HORSES FOR COURSES
Neil Wagner - bowling average: 24.50 (1 match)
Mark Craig - bowling average: 39.00 and batting average: 30.50
Ish Sodhi - bowling average: 33.30 (2 matches)
Wagner is the clear third specialist seam option and will play in most conditions. He reinforced his value to the team with a typically strong and grunt-heavy performance in the third test.
Craig and Sodhi were both both mixed bags with the ball throughout the series. Encouragingly, they both created wicket taking chances at a superior rate to their West Indies spinning counterparts. However, in doing so they were unacceptably expensive, both going for more than four runs per over.
I personally still believe (and the numbers support this) that the variety and youth of Sodhi should be persisted with going forward. However, it seems that Craig's useful batting may give him an edge for the moment.
Hamish Rutherford - batting luck adjusted average: 11.80 (2 matches)
Peter Fulton - batting luck adjusted average: 1.11 (1 match)
It's truly amazing that New Zealand won the series essentially playing with 10, versus the West Indies XI.
The second opening spot is the side's current most glaring weakness, one that if corrected could well help propel the Black Caps to heights only seen prior to them even being known as the Black Caps.
Someone had better get Martin Guptill on the phone already.
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