Howick Pakuranga batsman Colin Munro has quashed fears the New Zealand cricket team would not be able to find a dynamic striker of Brendan McCullum’s explosive quality to partner Martin Guptill.
The decision of national selectors Gavin Larsen and Mike Hesson to promote Munro to the opening role has been an outstanding success, endorsed at Mt Maunganui when he became the first international player to score three T20 centuries when the Black Caps thrashed the West Indies by 119 runs.
It was also there that he scored his first T20 ton against Bangladesh 12 months ago and added his second in an away win against India in November.
His latest 100 off 47 balls bettered former captain Brendon McCullum’s NZ record 50-ball effort against Australia in Christchurch in 2010 and included an incredible 10 sixes.
Munro’s efforts helped the Black Caps leapfrog the hugely disappointing world champion West Indies to become the No 1 T20 team.
However, blessed with a variety of outstanding bowlers and some exciting batsmen, Pakistan promised to be a much tougher proposition until Kane Williamson (115), Munro (58), Henry Nicholls (50) and Guptill (48) handled their famed attack with relative ease in the Basin Reserve ODI opener to their tour when the home team amassed 315 for seven.
However they looked much better in scoring 246 for nine wickets in the Nelson match on Tuesday and had Munro gone for a duck and Williamson for 19 before Martin Guptill (86) and Ross Taylor (45) got their team home with seven balls to spare when rain reduced the chase to 151 from 25 overs.
Skipper Williamson’s ODI average of 46 is not much less than his excellent test average of 50.62.What is more remarkable he has averaged 92.46 in his last 16 tests to confirm his status as one of the world’s premier batsmen.
The development of middle order batsman Nicholls in filling the void left by injury prone Corey Anderson has also been pleasing.
Nicholls doesn’t possess Anderson’s power or allrounder status but he’s a calm customer who accumulates runs through good stroke selection.
Pleasing too was the form of Tim Southee in leading the bowling attack against Pakistan in the first ODI at the Basin Reserve with three for 22, two of those wickets coming in his first over.
While remaining a fine bowler, Southee had not been the force he was at the 2015 ODI World Cup when New Zealand reached the final against Australia when Shane Bond was bowling coach.
Perhaps his improved sharpness had something to do with the appointment of former team-mate Kyle Mills as the temporary bowling coach.
A proven performer who once was briefly ranked world No 1 ODI bowler, Howick Pakuranga man Mills is a personable character with good communication skills.
With Colin de Grandhomme having performed so well with the bat against India, the local club has much to be proud of.
Meanwhile I can only suppose it is Mitchell Santner’s and Todd Astle’s allrounder status that sees them selected in the ODI team ahead of the superior spin of Ish Sodhi.
Both have been reasonably economic against Pakistan but lack Sodhi’s penetration. Still, it’s encouraging New Zealand now have three genuine spinners to choose from.
Meanwhile expect Pakistan to show their true mettle in the remaining games.
- Ivan Agnew is an award-winning sports writer and author