A recent article argued that this is the best ever Black Caps Test side. Even so, there’s scope for the Black Caps to get even better. There is plenty of talent on the sideline as well, and finding a way to find some of it in the run-on XI might make the team stronger – as this article will examine.
The Black Caps have never had a batting foursome as good as Williamson-Taylor-Nicholls-Watling. The first two stand alongside Martin Crowe as the best the country has ever produced. Watling has been world-class as a wicketkeeper-bat and Nicholls has already broken into the top 10 Test batting rankings. Moreover, our two openers in Latham and Raval are as good as any since John Wright and Bruce Edgar.
The Black Caps aren’t lacking the ability to build big innings, and they already have Nicholls and Watling as batsmen capable enough to rebuild after a top order failure. There is therefore no need for an insurance batsman at 7, especially if this means that a good chunk of overs have to be bowled by a non-specialist.
With batting that good, we can afford to lose a bit of extra batting at 7 for the sake of strengthening the bowling. In other words, we could consider not playing an all-rounder in that role, but rather a bowling all-rounder like Mitchell Santner or Matt Henry.
The Black Caps could field a team of:
This would allow us to field an outstanding pace battery without having a weak batting unit. Probably we would open with Boult and Henry in such a situation, with Wagner playing his usual role as third seamer. Southee’s bowling would be much more dangerous than the alternatives for fourth seamer.
Such a composition would make for an exceptionally pure Black Caps side. There would be five specialist batsmen, one wicketkeeper, and five specialist bowlers.
A critic might argue that choosing such a side will increase the chances of being bowled out cheaply. The counter argument to that is to say that a pace battery of Boult, Henry, Wagner and Southee would wreck opposition teams so regularly that we would get away with a tiny extra chance of a batting collapse if it meant more overs from a truly dangerous bowler.
In any case, all four of them can bat a bit. Henry (19), Southee (17), Boult (14) and Wagner (12) all average in the double figures. A tail with Mitchell Santner at 7, who averages 25 and has the promise to average 30, would be just as good batting-wise as one with an all-rounder at 7, Santner at 8 and one fewer specialist seamer. Bowling-wise, four seamers would be superpowered.
Dan McGlashan is the man with his finger on the statistical pulse of New Zealand. His magnum opus, Understanding New Zealand, is the complete demographic analysis of the Kiwi people.