Black Caps eyeing history after Bay Oval win
The Black Caps are eyeing history on multiple fronts as they head to Christchurch for the second test against Pakistan which begins on Sunday at Hagley Oval.
If they can back up their win in the first test at Bay Oval in Mount Maunganui at a venue where they’ve only been denied twice in seven attempts, they will have won a record six tests in a row.
They will have completed a perfect home season, winning four tests out of four for the first time after going close by winning three out of four each of the past three summers.
They will officially move to No 1 in the International Cricket Council’s test rankings – a historic achievement they can also secure with a draw and a 1-0 series win.
And they will also have done their job as far as their hopes of making the World Test Championship final are concerned.
The ICC decided in November to judge the first edition of the World Test Championship on the percentage of points each nation had won, rather than the raw totals, after the Covid-19 pandemic forced the cancellation and postponement of several series in 2020.
As things stand, the Black Caps are vying with Australia, England, and India for a place in the top two and need a win in Christchurch to have any chance of making it.
Should they get it, they will be keeping a watchful eye on the two matches to come in the ongoing Australia-India series, which continues on January 7 in Sydney; England’s two-match series in Sri Lanka, which starts on January 14; and England’s four-match series in India, which starts on February 5 and is due to be completed on March 9.
Australia is also supposed to tour South Africa in February and March for three tests, but those matches are yet to be scheduled, as the nations grapple with the logistical challenges of playing in the middle of a global pandemic.
As of the end of the Black Caps’ first test against Pakistan, Australia had won 77 per cent of their possible points, with 180 more up for grabs; India had won 72 per cent, with 180 more up for grabs; the Black Caps had won 67 per cent, with just 60 more up for grabs; and England had won 61 per cent, with 240 more up for grabs.
A win in Christchurch will lift the Black Caps up to 70 per cent, and they will then need two of the other teams to end up below that mark to book their trip to Lord’s for the inaugural final next June.
The ICC rankings are updated at the end of each test series, so while it is possible to say the Black Caps would be ranked No 1 if the cricket world was to be paused on Wednesday night, when they wrapped up a dramatic win in the first test against Pakistan in Mount Maunganui, they still have work to do to make it official.
A win or draw in the second test will do that, but they would love to stay there even once the Australia-India series ends later in January.
For that to happen, they need to win the second test and have Australia and India draw their series or have India win it 2-1, or to draw the second test, win their series 1-0, and have Australia and India draw their series.
Set in stone are the Black Caps’ five tests wins in a row, something they have only managed once previously, in 2005 and 2006.
Back then, they beat Sri Lanka by an innings and 38 runs in Wellington, Zimbabwe by an innings and 294 runs in Harare and an innings and 46 runs in Bulawayo, and the West Indies by 27 runs in Auckland and 10 wickets in Wellington.
This time around they beat India by 10 wickets in Wellington and seven wickets in Christchurch, the West Indies by an innings and 134 runs in Hamilton and an innings and 12 runs in Wellington, and Pakistan by 101 runs in Mount Maunganui.
A win in Christchurch will therefore put the Black Caps in uncharted territory on many fronts.
Black Caps captain Kane Williamson. Image: Daniel Hines/SunLive.
But as far as captain Kane Williamson is concerned, all of that “context” has to stay at the back of his players’ minds while they focus on the task at hand.
“It's about playing good cricket,” was how he put it on Wednesday after the win at Bay Oval.
“The attention and the context that's been brought in with the World Test Championship is great and it's given an added spice to test cricket.
“It's in the back of people's minds but not at the forefront of what we need to control and the effort that needs to go into playing our best cricket against a very strong side in Pakistan.
“They showed that out there today, and we've seen it on a number of occasions, that they're a terrific team in all areas, so for us it's about adjusting to conditions again and just trying to do the basics well and play our style of cricket to the best of our ability and what happens after that, we’ll see.”
What’s at stake for the Black Caps in the second test
• A win will be their sixth test victory in a row – a new record
• A win will give them a perfect record in a home summer consisting of more than two tests for the first time
• A win will keep their hopes of making the inaugural World Test Championship final alive
• A win or a draw will move them to No 1 on the ICC test rankings