Blackcap’s captain Kane Williamson almost single-handedly rescued NZ from another defeat at the hands of India in the current T20 series.
Unfortunately, the Blackcaps entered familiar territory and lost via their nemesis-the super over, the cricketing equivalent of Sherlocks’ Moriarty.
Chasing a gettable 180 on a sultry night in the city of the future, Martin Guptill flattered to deceive with a stylish 30 odd. Howick Pakuranga local Colin Munro seemed to be caught in some sort of leg-side black hole, cleverly exploited by the Indian seamers, rendering him (at the moment) incapable of hitting a Zorb ball with a guitar.
A baffling decision to send in bespectacled left-hander Mitchell Santner, ostensibly to counteract Ravindra Jadeja’s cack-handed tweak and Chahal’s leggies, failed to pay dividends as he was beaten all ends up and his castle re-arranged after scratching out 9.
From there, Williamson took control playing a lone hand and got his team to within a whisker of snatching back game three, with his 95 off just 48 balls, including 6 stylish sixes.
When Ross Taylor squeezed the last ball of the innings from Mohammad Shami back onto his stumps instead of the expected quick single to short third-man, the crowd quickly sent texts to family at home, advising them they would be staying a little longer.
With the spectre of the Lords final omnipresent and the witching hour approaching, New Zealand swatted a competitive 17 off the 6 balls of the super over and would have been quietly confident of getting a W on the board.
Rohit Sharma had other ideas, and made easy money pumping Tim Southee (who had gallantly volunteered for crickets’ most unpopular job) for 6 off the last ball to seal the series.
For the NZ cricket public, the loss extracted further discontent with recent results, which had already manifested in typically apathetic crowds at the first two games at Eden Park.
Muddled thinking in regards to batting positions and bowler selections, now have the Canterbury axis of Stead and “two metre” Peter Fulton under pressure, joined in the shark tank by chief selector Gavin Larsen.
Hamish Bennett resumed his international career after bossing provincial batsmen in the Dream 11 Super Smash, and Blair Tickner was promoted on his ability to bowl a hard length. Unfortunately neither looks capable of consistently troubling batsmen at this level.
In a team missing three front line seamers, the backups are just not up to it.
On-field, the team doesn’t appear to be exhibiting the fluidity and confidence they emanated with such aplomb in the World Cup.
Is the dressing room in disarray? Or are India simply masters of the short game?
With the T20 world cup taking place in the west island from late October, time is running out for this administration to avoid impeachment.
Times journalist Jim Birchall is a long-serving Auckland Cricket Umpire and owner of cricket media & equipment site honeybadgercricket.com