Santner Created Pressure And Backed The Quicks Hesson
New Zealand may have lost a series decider in India for the fourth time, still unable to win a bilateral series in the Asian country. Yet, it wasn't without a strong fight that went down to the wire. In a chase of 338, they came heartbreakingly close only to fall merely six runs short in the process of scoring their highest ever score in India. But from a New Zealand perspective, after their last series finale last year was an abject capitulation, this was only a step up in monumental proportions.
"A year ago we were playing the decider and got bowled out for 67  chasing 260 , so to put that into context, to be chasing a formidable total like that and to put in a performance (like that) shows how the team is evolving," said head coach Mike Hesson on Sunday (October 29). "[Jasprit] Bumrah was exceptional in the end. It was always going to be difficult. We got it down to 25 off two overs. When you've got a score like 338, you want to see yourself up to have a small chase like that but you know that with Bhuvneshwar and Bumrah, who are probably two of the three best yorker bowlers in the world, so was always going to challenging. We got them to miss a couple of times and were able to take advantage of that but not quite at the end. It was one hell of a chase; disappointing to fall short."
But that said, the New Zealand coach didn't look back at the series for just falling short. If anything, there were a number of positives for New Zealand, particularly in terms of new personnel undertaking new roles and succeeding in them, two of whom starred in the Kanpur chase - Colin Munro and Tom Latham.
"Certainly pleased with Colin Munro, also his bowling. We needed an option like that at the top and he provided those useful overs here and there. Certainly provided the impetus (with the bat). Latham was exceptional throughout the series. Not only the runs, even his keeping...to take on both those roles, he was exceptional and in rare touch at the moment. Henry Nicholls with the bat... it's a tough role, the finishing one. You always come out under pressure when batting first or chasing, certainly he played some quality innings for us."
Henry Nicholls was just 13 One-Day Internationals old when coming into a pressure situation like he found himself in Kanpur. He had scored a handy 42 in Pune, but his 37 in Kanpur would have had an enhanced significance, had New Zealand crossed the line. Yet, it was a knock of maturity in trying conditions with his stand of 59 with Latham in quick time, setting up New Zealand's chase. Once the fifth-wicket stand was broken, New Zealand slipped fast to eventually end up short.
"We tried to get ourselves to a Twenty20 situation really," said Hesson. "We thought if we could reduce the chase to 170 off the last 20 then with wickets in hand, we're in with a good chance. In the end, we needed about 163 off the last 20 through some exceptional batting from a number of players. Munro certainly gave us the impetus at the top and got us ahead of the run rate early which made it easy for the guys coming in."
But while the coach heaped praise on his batters, he acknowledged the effort of the bowlers in unfamiliar conditions and surfaces unaccustomed to. "First ten overs we were pretty good. It just became particularly difficult to stay in the flow of runs. Particularly, trying to string a few dots together. I just thought we just hung in it from 40 to 50, from 260 for 1 [252 for 1] I think at 40 to let them get just 85 in the last ten I thought was exceptional. It shows that the guys were able to execute their plans under certainly extreme pressure. It was a time when they were going for some huge numbers, so I thought we showed some real quality there," said Hesson, singling out Mitchell Santner, who played a huge part in creating pressure and tying down the runs, finishing with figures of 2 for 58, while all the frontline bowlers were taken for over 6 an over.
"They certainly respect Mitch over here. They know he's a quality bowler so don't take too many risks against him. So he's got to earn his wickets, but he created pressure for us and backed up the quicks who I thought were very good over here. Not great surfaces, not ones that we're used to but Trent Boult's spell in Mumbai, Tim [Southee] was very good today, Adam [Milne] in Pune was getting close to his best, so there's some very good signs.
"We were looking at anything between 350 and 370 at one stage, so to bring them back was a good effort. We knew it was a good surface and was a very fast outfield compared to the other ones we've played on, so was always going to be a high-scoring ground. We just haven't been able to chase those targets in the past so was always a little bit daunting, but certainly we broke it down," he added.