Dominance of New Zealand: Why Kiwis roar like lions at home
While the standards of some Test teams have dipped in recent times, New Zealand is the exception that has managed to remain steady. The Kane Williamson led side are tough customers anywhere, but at home they are feared even by the very best.
In back-to-back series, New Zealand has flattened the reputation of not one but two Test cricket heavyweights. First, the Kiwis put an end to England’s high from levelling the Ashes at the end of 2019 by winning the two-Test series 1-0. Then, over the last two weeks against India, they punctured the ego of the top-ranked Test side in the world.
With their sixth straight series win at home, Williamson’s side have enhanced their reputation of being one of the most dangerous teams in their backyard.
There are quite a few reasons for the New Zealand’s home domination, but the one that stands out is the unique playing conditions in the country. On their green-tops, they are just as dangerous as India is on turners. Shrewd captains (Stephen Fleming, Brendon McCullum, Williamson, etc.), smart players, and discipline as a team to execute tactics have paid dividends.
To adjust to the pitches in New Zealand is a big challenge, especially for batsmen travelling from the subcontinent. And then, along with the pitch, there is the wind factor. To counter that, batsmen need to quickly adapt and play the ball late, close to the body and as straight as possible.
Because of their pitches and the wind, in New Zealand runs are always at a premium. Playing a long innings is not easy, which makes collective batting efforts key. Contributions from lower order are always necessary to take totals past 300. In this series, India crossed the 200 only once.
Since 1998, India has won only Test match in New Zealand (which gave them the 2009 series win) and a large reason for that is that the hosts have often ballooned their runs with vital contributions from their lower order and tail. It proved to be the difference in this series as well.
In the first Test, India were all out for 165, but the bowlers got them back by reducing New Zealand to 225/7. But No. 9 Kyle Jamieson scored 44 runs and No. 11 Trent Boult added 38 more to push the score to 348—a sizeable lead of 183 runs. The story repeated itself in Christchurch as well. After scoring 242, India had the hosts on the mat at 177/8, before Jamieson once again hammered 49 and No. 10 Neil Wagner chipped in with 21, restricting their deficit to just seven runs.
India were expecting a similar contribution from their lower order, with R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja expected to play Jamieson’s role. But neither delivered in the single Tests in which they were played. Ashwin scored 0 and 4 in Wellington and Jadeja managed 9 and 16 not out in the second. History has repeated itself in NZ, only the names have changed. Before Jamieson, it was Dion Nash and Daniel Vettori who did the job in the 1998-99 series, while James Neesham was the lower order thorn in India’s flesh on the previous tour. Only in 2009, India’s lower order outperformed NZ’s (Harbhajan Singh and Zaheer Khan making useful contributions with a half-century each) and India duly won that series.