Having begun his international cricket career in controversy in 2012 by dropping captain Ross Taylor for Brendon McCullum, Black Caps cricket coach Mike Hesson has made his critics eat their words.
New Zealand’s 2-0 whitewash of Australia in the Chappell-Hadlee Trophy on Sunday has lifted them to third in the World ODI standings, the latest win in Hamilton being their 26th in their last 30 ODI home games.
It helped erase the shame they endured when thrashed by Australia when touring that country in December, aided by a couple of poor captaincy decisions by McCullum’s successor, Kane Williamson, who atoned with astute fielding placements in Hamilton which snared wickets.
Revenge, of course, was made much easier by Australia’s decision to rest outstanding premier batsmen David Warner and Steve Smith who had been so dominant all summer on their own wickets.
But New Zealand have also progressed nicely with their latest success following home series wins against Pakistan and Bangladesh which revealed heartening batting depth.
Having taken six wickets for 41 against Pakistan in Christchurch, wily Howick-Pakuranga medium pacer Colin de Grandhomme made a sensational start to his Test career.
Others to shine when given their chance to fill the gaps left by injured players were Neil Broom, who celebrated his long awaited recall with a century against Bangladesh in Nelson, and Dean Brownlee, who notched a valuable 63 against the Aussies at Hamilton.
Throw in Auckland fast bowler Lockie Ferguson who, like the injured Adam Milne, can exceed 150k/h, and the improvement in depth becomes obvious after injuries sidelined Adam Milne, Mitchell McClenaghan and Matt Henry.
Another bonus has been the wicketkeeping of opening batsman Tom Latham which has allowed Hesson and fellow selector Gavin Larsen to pick an extra batsman.
Highlights of the Hamilton game against Australia were Ross Taylor’s 107 to equal the 15 centuries ODI record of Nathan Astle, and swing bowler Trent Boult’s six for 33 to secure a 24-run victory.
It was a shame leg spinner Ish Sodhi wasn’t given a start after his Big Bash heroics over the Tasman although few could argue against the contribution of all-rounder Mitchell Santner who scored an unbeaten 38 and took 2 for 50.
Santner’s bowling figures don’t look flash. But they were after eight overs when he conceded only 19 runs, before being hammered by Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins for 31 from his last two.
He was, along with Boult, also top value with his lively fielding.
However this summer the overall energy and accuracy of the fielding has not been up to the standard set during McCullum’s inspirational leadership when he, brother Nathan and Martin Guptill set the standard.
With all-rounder Corey Anderson unable to bowl, Jimmy Neesham’s bowling prowess fell far short of his batting and a fully fit Anderson would do much to improve New Zealand’s confidence when the brilliant South Africans tour.
Meanwhile, favourites Australia have won the quad series netball but struggled to beat South Africa 60-55 and England 47-46 after easily accounting for the Silver Ferns 57-50.
Then the Ferns finished in style, thrashing England 61-37 and South Africa 70-39 with goal attack Maria Tutaia the standout star of the tournament, ably supported by fellow shooters Bailey Mes and Te Paea Selby-Rickit.
One to watch as a great future prospect is 6ft 4in goal defence Kelly Jury.
Ivan Agnew is an award-winning sports writer and author