The best Black Caps side in a generation – possibly ever – are revelling in a fresh success, this time a triumph in its weakest format against its greatest rivals.
New Zealand’s 3-2 T20 series win over Australia in Wellington on Sunday was richly savoured by long-suffering Kiwi fans.
In regular competition since the 1970s, New Zealand had enjoyed just five multi-game series wins over Australia until this month.
After restricting Australia to 8-142, Martin Guptill’s quickfire knock of 71 ensured a sixth series victory, delighting coach Gary Stead.
“When we lost the toss, it would have been easy to think we were behind the eight-ball again. But I thought we bowled and fielded exceptionally well today,” he said.
Adding to New Zealand’s depth, batter Devon Conway showed his international pedigree with another fine series.
The triumph over Australia is particularly pleasing as New Zealand hasn’t enjoyed the same success in T20 cricket as it has in longer formats.
Still, it has notched three T20 series victories at home this summer and will have the chance to add Bangladesh to the streak later this month.
After that comes the chance to become the inaugural world Test champions in June.
England’s capitulation in its Test overnight confirms India as New Zealand’s opponents in the inaugural showpiece.
India qualified for the World Test Championship Final overnight and will face New Zealand at Lord's in June #INDvENG
— cricket.com.au (@cricketcomau) March 6, 2021
“We’ve known we’re going to be there for a while, it’s been just working out who we’ll play,” Stead said, confessing he was glued to the England-India Tests throughout his own T20 series.
“India is a great team. They have world-beaters right through their team and some very, very good players.
“Think about how they played in Australia as well. They were outstanding.
“It allows us to start some planning and think about that.”
On the question on whether this is the best-ever New Zealand outfit, Stead deferred.
“I haven’t really thought about it too much,” he deadpanned.
“We’re just trying to get a little bit better every day and we know if we do that we’re going to be up there with some of the best teams in the world.
“The quality of your team over a long period of time is seen in the consistency that you play with and I think we’ve gotten better at that.”
An EPIC series! Wishing Aaron and his team a safe flight. A big thank you for all your efforts in making this tour a reality @CricketAus, see you again soon 🤝 🏏#NZvAUS #CricketNation #Cricket 📷 = @PhotosportNZ pic.twitter.com/k4yinZ2Bva
— BLACKCAPS (@BLACKCAPS) March 7, 2021
Looking on the bright side, Australian captain Aaron Finch says the arduous tour had at least been great preparation for October’s T20 World Cup.
“It would have been nicer if we were walking away with the trophy,” Finch said.
“But I was really pleased with our resilience through the series to bounce back from 2-0 down. There was a lot of character.”
Australia took an 18-man squad to NZ but only used 12, handing debuts to Josh Philippe and Riley Meredith off the back of strong Big Bash League seasons as Tests stars including Pat Cummins and David Warner remained at home.
— cricket.com.au (@cricketcomau) March 7, 2021
Finch nominated the fine efforts of Philippe and Meredith as one of the major positives.
“Josh made a couple of 40s. If he kicks on to 60s and 70s, which has been doing in domestic cricket, that’d be great for his confidence,” he said, implying Philippe will stay with the T20 squad through to India.
Meredith dismissed batting ace Kane Williamson twice in his three matches, with Finch saying his pace and aggressive showed he belonged at international level.
“It’s been a long summer for a lot of guys who have been in bubbles,” Finch said.
“Some guys in WA haven’t been home for quite a few months.
“We’re all looking forward to getting home and seeing family.”