All too predictable

Sadly, the Black Caps slumped to lose the first ODI against Sri Lanka at R Premadasa stadium last night. I was going to blog in the innings break that NZ were going to lose if they went at the run chase of 216 too cockily, but it all seemed too predictable that they would. And the Kiwis obliged. Sigh.

That said, Sri Lanka could easily have crumbled to a much closer result had they not benefitted from Samaraweera’s remarkable run of form and skill, supplemented by Angelo Mathews. Well done those lads!

Questions that flow from the loss, and lessons to be learnt:

  1. What process did Vettori follow to choose to bowl first? Given the R Premadasa ground’s history of wins to the side batting first (this match made 11 straight wins), did Vettori not trust his batting order to set even a reasonable target of 180-200, or did he think his quick bowlers would extract more swing than ‘Slinger’ Malinga? (despite neither Tuffey nor Bond nor Oram being swing bowlers).

    UPDATE: Whoops! Seems I misinterpreted an initial Herald report that “Once Daniel Vettori called incorrectly, New Zealand were bound to struggle in the Tri-Series opener, given that the low and slow R Premadasa Stadium pitch is weighted in favour of the team batting first” and later “Vettori’s bad luck with the toss initially appeared to have been negated by New Zealand’s impressive start to a contest that resembled a war of attrition”, to mean Vettori had ‘won the toss and wrongly chosen to bowl’ when it meant ‘lost the toss’. Judge for yourself how clear it was. So, NZ did not win the toss, Sri Lanka did, which negates question 1. Though the question is a useful one for a captain to answer (at least to his coach) prior to all matches, to prepare properly.

  2. Follow up question to No.1 – what is the balance between coach Andy Moles and captain Dan Vettori in deciding such matters as the toss, batting & bowling order, initial fielder settings for key opposition batsmen, etc. Sure, the captain can modify such plans to meet the evolving game on the field, but what is the NZ starting point and who is deciding it? This is far more important with Vettori recently joining the selection panel (as the selection panel’s choice of players with captaincy potential requires them to know who has called the shots with what results, in the past).
  3. Speaking of selectors – why did NZ take a mere 3 specialist batsmen (Ryder, Taylor & Guptill) into the match? All-rounders are useful, but only if they are in form and contributing at an international level in at least 1 area, which Oram and Nathan McCullum did not. Why was Ryder not used as extra FM bowler, freeing up a space for another batsman? Given the recent fragility of the NZ batting lineup, and that ODI’s only require run limitation (sometimes through taking wickets, but mostly by tight bowling), beefing the batting lineup is a higher priority than bowling the opposing side out (the reverse is true for tests). This question relates heavily to my earlier post highlighting the need for position based team selection.
  4. What practise are NZ doing to tackle local batting conditions? Have they asked local clubs for nets bowlers or a friendly practise match? (perhaps even just half a ODI – where NZ bat twice and the locals get 2 bowling attempts at the Kiwis – surely that is a useful and varied afternoon practise after drills & skills are done in the days before?).

Oh, and for the next ODI against India, will Vettori please bat ahead of Oram and Nathan McCullum (if they play). Despite his failure overnight, he really is a better batsman than most NZ all-rounders, particularly when a gritty, low-scoring run chase is required. And is it just futile to ask that NZ consider bringing in Matthew Sinclair as batsman-keeper to replace Brendan McCullum, who has failed to perform with bat so often? (recall Sinclair used to keep for CD).

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