Dylan Cleaver: And the winner is …… the best bits of Black Caps’ summer
8th April 2021

Dylan Cleaver picks out the best performers and moments from the Black Caps’ cricketing summer.

Best player: Kyle Jamieson

Not since Sir Richard Hadlee has there been such a palpable sense of excitement when a bowler is handed the ball in a test. OK, maybe Shane Bond in his infrequent forays in whites, but there is something that feels a bit more permanent about Jamieson’s quality.

To immediately devalue the above point, it’s important to note that Jamieson has played just six tests and five ODIs, while his eight T20Is have been seriously underwhelming.

Still, cricketers remain judged by their test results and his bowling average of 13.3 and (misleading) batting average of 56.5 – which is actually higher than his highest score – speaks to a player who has the potential to leave an indelible mark on the game.

Best test player: Jamieson and Kane Williamson

It is impossible on any objective level to separate these two. As dominant as Jamieson was with the ball, Williamson was imperious with the bat.

The skipper scored 639 runs across four innings, including two big double tons. He was dismissed three times on the slog. Just as Jamieson willed himself to take wickets, Williamson refused to be dismissed.

The two double centuries were scored on seriously green wickets and the only moment when his timing was out of synch was when he had to miss the second test against the West Indies at the Basin Reserve due to the impending birth of his daughter.

Best ODI player: Devon Conway

Small sample size of three matches but a century, half century and low score of 27 sees Conway romp away with this.

Best T20I player: Glenn Phillips

The obvious choices are Conway, again, or Ish Sodhi, who took wickets for fun, but in T20 cricket you have to look at more than your traditional raw numbers of aggregate and average. Phillips rarely gets the luxury of time. He faced just 198 balls this T20I season. He hit a staggering 54 of them either to or over the rope – that’s a boundary every 3.66 balls. He hit at a strike-rate of 184.8. He constantly played the right innings at the right time, fielded like an untrained puppy and even threw some (occasionally dubious) offspin into the mix.

It was a truly remarkable campaign, which it had to be to supersede Conway or Sodhi.

Best innings: Williamson 238 v Pakistan

How do you separate two match-defining double-centuries scored on challenging wickets?

In the end it comes down to personal preference. Pakistan’s Shaheen Shah Afridi-led attack was slightly stronger than the West Indies collective, the boundaries are longer at Hagley Oval and Williamson had a rotten record there before this match.

All those factors swayed it, but the clincher was his scoring sequence to get from 86 through to 100. It was glorious, almost cinematic in scope: a flick off the pads through midwicket, a lordly on drive, a pirouetting pull shot and a glance so fine it, like the others, rendered fieldsmen redundant.

Best spell: Neil Wagner, Mt Maunganui

The only time New Zealand looked under real pressure was on the final day at Mt Maunganui when Pakistan at 240-4 looked like they could first chase down 373 to win, then were odds on to draw. Instead New Zealand rolled them in the final 90 minutes, dismissing them for 271.

Five bowlers took two wickets each but it was Wagner’s indefatigable 2-55 from 28 overs, all of them delivered on two broken toes, which will be remembered and treasured. His “junk” ball to dismiss centurion Fawad Alam for 102 was the key moment of the match.

In terms of skill, Kyle Jamieson in Christchurch and Tim Southee just about everywhere he went this summer top had an edge, but nothing can match Wagner’s effort for pure intestinal fortitude.

Best catch: Daryl Mitchell

His one-handed speccie to dismiss Haider Ali in the third T20 against Pakistan pips Trent Boult’s effort at third man against Bangladesh. Boult’s was a more instinctive piece of athleticism but Mitchell’s had a technical degree of difficulty due to the fact he had to turn and retreat rather than move laterally.

Best moment: Mitchell Santner

New Zealand’s hopes of making the WTC were receding at exactly the same speed as the overs on the fifth and final day of the first test against Pakistan. Jamieson and Wagner had bowled themselves into the ground, Boult and Southee couldn’t get the Kookaburra to wobble off the straight.

It was up to Santner, who had flattered to deceive with the ball, to make the final breakthrough with just five overs remaining. The third ball was floated up, Naseem Shah pushed a little too early, the ball seemed to dangle in the air.

All the new Zealand fieldsman, most of whom were within spitting distance of the bat, leapt in the air in synchronicity, but only one could actually do anything about it – the bowler. Santner leapt and thrust one hand up pulling it out of the air.

“Look at the scenes; they’re all over him,” said Mark Richardson from the commentary box.

Absolute scenes all right.

Best player not to have played a test: Devon Conway

A Captain Obvious call here. Conway’s blinding talent will surely force Gary Stead to do something he has been loathe to: break up a winning batting line-up.

Best millennial moment: Finn Allen

Bowled for a nuclear duck (first ball of international career), Allen selected the reverse sweep as his shot of choice to get off the mark in his second match.

It remains to be seen whether Allen’s hip-clearing, home-run-or-strike-out technique is sustainable. Given that Bangladesh had a watery attack and were inexcusably poor in the field, you suspect he needs to add several layers to his game, but it will be fun watching him try.

Best comeback: Martin Guptill, 97 v Australia

He never really went away, but when he sliced a half volley to gully in the first of five T20Is against Australia, it was the continuation of an injury ravaged summer that had failed to get out of first gear.

The first ball at University Oval he stroked one through the covers for four. Off the first ball he saw from the impressive jhye Richardson he deposited it well over mid-off. Just like that, Guptill was back. The ball continued to ping off his bat for the remainder of the season, though he’d be disappointed he didn’t convert that into bigger scores.

Best left alone: Throwing at batsmen

Bowlers get frustrated. It’s part of their genetic cocktail. At least twice we saw bowlers hurl the ball at batsmen who were not attempting runs in such a wildly inaccurate fashion that it was difficult to make a case for the defence that they were aiming for the stumps.

Let’s call the practice out for what it is: grubby, low-rent, playground bully behaviour.

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