Matt Maher: The Kiwis have found a formula for success

To anyone who witnessed their dismantling of England earlier this month, New Zealand’s victory over India in the inaugural World Test Championship this week came as little surprise.

New Zealand captain Kane Williamson lifts the trophy
New Zealand captain Kane Williamson lifts the trophy

While hardly packed with household names, the Black Caps are a team who do everything well.

Their batsmen leave the ball, play late and straight, they bowl good lines consistently and their fielders hold catches. In short, they play Test cricket the way it is meant to be played.

Granted, their ascent may have been helped by some canny recruitment, with both Devon Conway and Neil Wagner given a shot at international cricket after being overlooked in their native South Africa. Yet countries with far bigger resources have long used that trick.

Instead, their success is chiefly down to a solid domestic game and under-rated coaching. Kyle Jamieson, the towering 6ft 8ins seamer rapidly emerging as one of the world’s most exciting young players, started his professional career as a top order batsman before being encouraged to focus on his bowling. New Zealand cricket benefits from a focused approach, designed to get the very best out of what they have.

“We keep it simple,” opening batsman Tom Latham recently remarked. Such a straightforward strategy appears to be sadly lacking in English cricket at present, now less than six months away from an Ashes series Down Under.

Nothing captures the attention of the casual cricket viewer like meetings with Australia and for England there is no greater challenge than facing the old enemy in their own backyard.

Yet while the ECB might continue to stress the importance of the Ashes, the primary focus for now would appear to be October’s World T20 tournament. It is why some of England’s big all-format players, like Chris Woakes and Jos Buttler, have been back in action against Sri Lanka this week, after being rested for the New Zealand Test series.

Woakes endured a frustrating winter and there is every likelihood he will line-up for August’s Test series against India having played fewer days of red-ball cricket in England this summer than the touring team, thanks to the latter’s involvement in the WTC.

It could hardly be described as ideal preparation. Neither is the fact England’s beleaguered top order batsmen will have a maximum of two County Championship matches to rediscover some form next month, before then playing the opening fortnight of The Hundred.

Much as New Zealand’s success comes as no surprise, neither should England’s continued struggles in Test match cricket.

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