Ever since New Zealand landed on Indian shores, they have looked a team to beat. They brought out their best game, matching the Indians blow for blow. But in a short series, it is the fine margins that matter, which is where the Kiwis eventually fell short.
In the third and final One-Day International in Kanpur, chasing 338 for victory, New Zealand fell short by just six runs despite being in control of the chase for 46 overs. In the rain-curtailed third Twenty20 International in Thiruvananthapuram on Tuesday (November 7) as well, they fell short by the same margin, while chasing 68 in eight overs.
Despite the hard-to-swallow losses, Kane Williamson firmly believes his side has enhanced its reputation by remaining competitive in trying conditions.
“I thought in both of them [deciders], we were very good, just not quite good enough,” said Williamson. “That’s the challenge; both of them came down to the last couple of balls and when that is the case, there are such small margins that we look to make those improvements.
“But on a whole, as a unit, we are constantly trying to improve and get better. And I think we have seen that throughout the series. But there’s still a way to go to where we want to be. We’ve shown some really good signs, like I said such a fine line, especially in white-ball cricket and we saw that throughout the series.
“It was a really tough-fought series, both teams played really good competitive cricket and for a lot of games to come down to the last three balls makes for good watching but a shame to be on the wrong side.”
Incessant rains in Thiruvananthapuram had almost ruined Greenfield International Stadium’s debut, but excellent work by the ground staff ensured an eight-over. That also meant batsman had no time to get their eye in, and with the covers on for a long time, the surface had dampness which rendering shot-making difficult.
“I suppose when the game is that short, to try and get a read on the surface is quite tough,” said Williamson. “You’re trying to generate a strike-rate straightaway and it was a tricky surface so to get eight an over on that from India’s perspective was a good effort. We knew it was going to be tough and we got very close, just a shame we couldn’t get across the line.
“The guys coming out were essentially playing death in terms of their batting from ball one. So it was more to do with the surface and what we wanted to finish with today but it’s something different because you don’t experience it too much, you get 20 overs each and this is something different. You have to think on your feet.”
Restricting India to 67 for 5, New Zealand would have fancied their chances at the halfway stage. But with India bowling with precision and the pitch continuing to pose a huge challenge, chasing eight and a half was always going to be a tough ask.
“Eight an over on that surface was fairly difficult,” reiterated Williamson. “Perhaps a lot more difficult than on another surface. It is just trying to adapt as best you can, take the best options but even with eight overs, you don’t have to go silly.
“You need to play smart cricket because there is still a lot of balls that you need to score off and when you get a couple of boundaries away, it goes a long way to chasing that total down. But it was a very tricky surface and for it to be so close, I guess we go back to how we want to execute.
“When it’s eight overs, they’re kind of on the defensive because batsmen are coming out so aggressively. And the nature of the surface, it was taking so much turn. All bowlers were a threat out there and I suppose batsmen were trying their best trying to generate a strike-rate.
“You can look at a number of areas but it was so close and I think if we keep competing well, keep improving as a unit, we will definitely get some more wins.”
Williamson was effusive in his praise of Colin Munro, who made the most of his promotion to the top of the tree. His 75-ball 62 in the final ODI was critical in getting New Zealand close, while he upped his game a notch in the second T20I, slamming a 58-ball unbeaten 109 to lead his side to a win.
“There were some key contributions throughout,” added Williamson. “Colin Munro in the second game was outstanding. The bowlers, the spinners, in particular, were very good. Collectively, the guys went about their business really well.
“The batting unit has a really nice balance to it. They are just trying to adapt and read the game the best they can and the bowlers are adapting well too.”