On Wednesday, India reached an unassailable 3-0 series lead with a rather dramatic super-over win at Hamilton. As India rejoiced, many felt sad for New Zealand to have gone down in a far too similar fashion once again. However, as the emotions dried up, one could come to terms with the fact that the hosts might have been the reason for their own quandary.
Once bitten – unlucky, twice bitten – lack of experience, thrice bitten and only sheer inefficiency comes to mind. It happened in the 2019 World Cup final, a match that wouldn’t have gone to the super-over if Trent Boult hadn’t inadvertently stepped on the boundary ropes to hand over six crucial runs in the penultimate over. The Kiwis might not have had to chase 16 runs in the super over if Lockie Ferguson, the in-form bowler had been given the ball instead of the under-pressure Trent Boult. Ifs and buts people would say but that is the hard and cold fact as Ferguson was New Zealand’s most dangerous weapon. New Zealand lost the match, the World Cup, it drained their emotions but unfortunately it didn’t turn out to be a learning experience.
Few months later in November, when they faced the same side at home in a rain-curtailed T20 game, New Zealand had to confront the Super Over once again. Just like the World Cup final, New Zealand had to defend 16 runs off the final over and the responsibility was in James Neesham’s hands. The first three balls went superbly as it yielded only three runs and wicket but worryingly New Zealand found a way to lose once again as James Neesham bowled a couple of full tosses that Chris Jordan aced for England.
In the super over, Tim Southee erred with his lengths and Eoin Morgan took advantage to ensure England ended up with 17 runs. From there on, New Zealand weren’t there in the game and Chris Jordan’s pin-point bowling reflected the same as England triumphed again.
Following this, no one would expected in the wildest of their dreams that New Zealand will encounter a super over situation yet again in the near future. Yet they did on Wednesday and would have hoped that the Kiwis would have been stronger and more importantly wiser for their recent experiences. However, before talking about the Super Over, it is pertinent to talk about the New Zealand’s success in pulling defeat from the jaws of victory.
Skipper Kane Williamson had just played one of the best-ever T20 knocks and he had shown masterclass on how to tackle Jasprit Bumrah’s Yorkers by using the crease. The equation was down to nine required off the final over that was to be bowled by Mohammad Shami. Off the very first ball, Taylor swung his bat to the leg-side and the Kiwis suddenly needed only three off five. You would think the match is settled. This was a followed by a single. Still, the match is in New Zealand’s court.
Well, Williamson had for once executed a poor shot and was walking back to the pavilion and once again it was needless to say with respect to which team was in the front even after this. Suddenly, with Tim Seifert only managing a bye in the next two balls, New Zealand had inexplicably brought the match to the final over. And there, Shami executed a very full delivery as Taylor played the ball onto his stumps and India had tied the match from nowhere. Sheer lack of planning and execution had let down the nicest guys of world cricket.
The hosts could have very well buried all the bad Super Over memories if Kane Williamson and Martin Guptill had found some support. After all, the duo batted out of their skins to help New Zealand post a target of 18. While indeed feeling sorry for the Kiwi skipper given his heroic batting decisions on the night, one wonders whether Williamson, the captain had let down Williamson, the batsman ?
Although Williamson didn’t play the tied T20I against England a couple of months ago, he would have been aware of how Southee had failed to execute his lengths while bowling to Eoin Morgan and Jonny Bairstow. On this occasion, the ball could have very well been given to Mitchell Santner, one of the best limited-over spinners in the world but Williamson still relied on his most trusted option in Southee. Saying that Williamson had other options might come across as an opinion based on hindsight but fortunately or unfortunately that is the ground reality.
Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul were always going to fancy Tim Southee’s bowling in a super-over situation. New Zealand’s most experienced bowler Southee had already given away 18 runs in the final over of the regular match. There was a palpable amount of pressure on him.
Even then, given how much cricket Southee has under his belt these days, the six deliveries in the super over were hard to understand. Fair enough, one could say that no bowler will want to bowl six balls in the slot but the execution needs to be questioned.
Even though Southee has been the team’s leading bowler in T20Is off late especially at a time when so many of the front-line pacers are injured, we are forced to question Willamson’s choice once again. Southee has never been a death bowler. He is at his best during the powerplay as the balls swings for a few overs.
While the first four balls didn’t cause much damage, the remaining two did as Rohit Sharma sent the ball into the night skies on a day the visitors had pulled off a miraculous victory. Just as the ball crossed the boundary rope following Rohit’s winning six, commentator Ian Smith rose his voice level just as his emotions sank. And so would have the emotions of all the people who were supporting New Zealand on the night. Southee had erred, Seifert had erred when he could have run-out KL Rahul off the very delivery and New Zealand had stumbled for the nth time.
This had become a theme. We looked at three super-over losses in the recent past but the Kiwis have had a habit of doing this for quite some time. On the whole, the hosts have played seven super-overs and lost six of them. In the end, New Zealand were simply not able to get over the line because of execution and not bad fortune. The good boys of world cricket hadn’t been dealt an unfair blow. In fact, the Kiwis had hammered their own feet. While New Zealand aren’t the ones to whinge and deflect the blame on others, it might be high time for coach Gary Stead and skipper Kane Williamson to go back to the drawing board and address some serious issues.