Unlike the Dunedin Test, which was completely dominated by the Kiwis, the Hamilton Test was much more competitive. Yet, New Zealand found their way out through troubled situations, and registered a five-wicket triumph to clinch the series 2-0. Their batting wasn’t up to the mark, but the bowlers ensured it did not hurt them, and towards the end of the match, Kane Williamson saw to it that the hosts stayed on top. The victory means they have extended their undefeated streak at home to 13 Tests now, going back to 2012. Rather impressive without doubt.
There were two key phases during which New Zealand literally turned the game in their favour. The main one was of course when their bowlers fought back after the team had conceded a first innings lead. The New Zealand bowlers were all over the Sri Lankan batsmen in the second innings. The Sri Lankans were actually off to a promising start, but Tim Southee, Neil Wagner and Doug Bracewell combined to bowl out the visitors cheaply. It was the kind of match-turning effort New Zealand needed after having collapsed themselves with the bat. It set the chase up nicely.
New Zealand struggled in the second innings as well. But, one man, Kane Williamson, arguably the best batsman in world cricket at present, showed tremendous composure to take Kiwis home. Williamson has been in great form in recent times and, even though New Zealand were under great pressure even in small chase, having lost wickets cheaply, Williamson made sure a 2-0 victory was certain for New Zealand. It was the kind of effort that only reiterated his growing stature in world cricket. Under the circumstances, Ross Taylor’s 35 was also crucial as it helped settle the nerves further in the dressing room.
Even as Williamson was the star of the match, a lot of credit for the victory should go to their bowlers as well. The trio of Southee, Bracewell and Wagner was impressive as a combination. They hardly let the pressure get off the Sri Lankans. And, although Trent Boult was wicketless in the second innings, he too chipped in with a couple of crucial scalps in the first. So well did New Zealand bowl in the Test, their fifth bowler Mitchell Santner was needed to deliver only seven overs in the Test, that too in the first innings.
While New Zealand should be pleased with the victory, they should be somewhat disappointed with their batting effort. Had it not been for Williamson’s century, things could have been different. Apart from Williamson, Guptill was the only batsman to cross the half-century mark. Many others like Tom Latham, Santner and Taylor got starts, but failed to convert the same into substantial scores. Moving forward, this is an area they need to work on, especially when they tour away from home. With Brendon McCullum retiring next month, the Kiwis will have to start afresh, and keep performing.
--By A Cricket Analyst