Thursday, 4 January 2007

Karl on ... 2006 – the test year in review

2006 was a very dry year for NZ test cricket fans, with only 8 test matches. The team won 3, lost 3 and drew 2. There was a home series against the West Indies in March (2 wins and 1 rained-out draw), an away series against South Africa in April (2 losses and 1 draw) and the home series against Sri Lanka in December (1 win and 1 loss).

Six players turned out for NZ in every test – Fleming, Vettori, Astle, Franklin, McCullum and Martin.

The batting by New Zealand was very frustrating and was marked by a lack of application and poor selection policies, with a lot of experimentation with openers. Only Stephen Fleming among the specialist batsmen redeeming himself with a fine 262 against South Africa in a 256 run, eighth-wicket partnership with James Franklin. The most consistent batsman for New Zealand was Daniel Vettori, who passed 50 on four out of 11 occasions. Four players finished the year with averages over 30: Fleming with 47.5; Vettori with 35.18; Styris with 34.57 and Franklin with 34.37.

The bowling was more consistent. The standout bowler who had a breakthrough year was Kyle Mills. In 3 tests he took 14 at 18.64. Shane Bond played 4 of the 8 tests and had a return of 18 at 26.16 – not matching the expectation heaped upon him but a good return given the lack of tests. Daniel Vettori took 21 at 28.57, finishing the year with a superb 7-130 against Sri Lanka. Rounding off the bowlers were James Franklin who took 29 at 29.96 and Chris Martin with 24 at 33.54. The bowlers were consistent without being devastating, but did show that they could bowl sides out, which is better than a number of recent NZ attacks.

The highlight of the year for me was the superb partnership between Fleming and Franklin in South Africa. It was a great return for Fleming and really showed Franklin’s potential. Another highlight was Kyle Mills emerging as an international class player.

I had two lowlights – the lack of tests played by NZ and the Muralitharan run-out incident.

The lack of tests is very frustrating. As a direct result of this I think our batsmen are losing the ability to play test cricket. Better scheduling in NZ for home series can make it a more financially attractive option and a two-test series is condescending to the fans. 2007 currently has no tests scheduled until NZ tours South Africa in December/January.

The Muralitharan run-out should never have been an issue in a professional game. A number of journalists have an outmoded view of what the game should be in the professional era. This is a professional game. We want our players to win and that has to involve capitalising on stupid mistakes made by the opposition. The whole incident has demeaned Brendan McCullum’s huge input to the team and reflects poorly on NZ sports reporters.

Note: Stats from

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