Captain Mitchell Santner’s stellar performance, complemented by persistent rain, averted a potential calamity for the Black Caps as they concluded the year on a positive note. Santner showcased his cricketing prowess by delivering his second-best T20 International bowling figures. Later, he played a crucial role in a match-winning partnership with the bat, enabling his team to clinch a rain-affected third game against Bangladesh and salvage the series.
Despite the year ending on a soggy note, with rain interrupting the Black Caps’ pursuit of 110 at Bay Oval, Santner’s masterful contributions illuminated an otherwise potentially gloomy outcome for the team.
A regrettable turn of events unfolded as Finn Allen and Mark Chapman collided mid-pitch, resulting in a lamentable runout that compounded the recent struggles of New Zealand’s batting unit. This unfortunate incident occurred before the dismissal of the opener, leaving the team five wickets down and requiring an additional 62 runs to avert a historic series sweep. The untimely setback added to the challenges faced by the batting lineup, amplifying the significance of their uphill task to salvage the match and avoid a comprehensive series defeat.
In a gripping turn of events, Mitchell Santner and Jimmy Neesham emerged as the heroes for the Black Caps, steering them ahead of the DLS (Duckworth-Lewis-Stern) equation to secure a crucial 17-run victory, with the team progressing to 95-5 before the arrival of rain. Santner, remaining unbeaten at 18, and Neesham, contributing 28 runs, played pivotal roles in clinching the win. Reflecting on the match, Santner acknowledged the pressure imposed by Bangladesh’s formidable bowling attack but expressed satisfaction in overcoming the challenges.
The victory seemed probable at the halfway mark when Santner, as captain, won the toss and led the bowling attack with finesse, securing impressive figures of 4-16. Despite setting a modest target on a pitch without evident challenges, the Black Caps, in line with recent patterns, faced the recurring challenge of losing wickets at regular intervals throughout the match.
The New Zealand batting lineup encountered a challenging phase as Tim Seifert, who had showcased resilience with a quickfire 43 in the abandoned second game, succumbed early, managing only one run in the second over, initiating an unfortunate trend. Subsequently, Daryl Mitchell, Glenn Phillips, and Mark Chapman each mirrored the opener’s modest score, further exacerbating the batting woes. Finn Allen, with 38 runs off 31 deliveries, found himself playing a solitary innings after colliding with Chapman, resulting in a runout that left New Zealand struggling at 38-4 by the seventh over. This unseemly pattern of low scores underscored the formidable challenge faced by the home side in the pursuit of a competitive total.
Reflecting on the match, Mitchell Santner acknowledged a potential misjudgment in the approach towards Bangladesh’s standout offspinner, Mahedi Hasan, who claimed 2-18. Santner speculated that the decision to adopt an attacking strategy against Hasan might have been a tactical error. Meanwhile, Shoriful Islam, with figures of 2-17, demonstrated once again the proficiency of Bangladesh’s seamers in foreign conditions. Fortunately, the New Zealand side found solace in the fact that Santner’s exceptional performance with the ball had significantly reduced the target, making it more attainable despite the challenges posed by the opposition’s skilled bowlers. The Black Caps could draw upon the silver lining of Santner’s contributions to make the pursuit of victory more within reach.
In his role as the stand-in captain, Mitchell Santner exhibited a masterful display of bowling prowess, consistently varying his pace and strategically outwitting the opposition batters with well-executed flight. Teaming up with Ish Sodhi, who delivered an economical spell of 0-16 from four overs, Santner effectively built an insurmountable level of pressure on the opposing team. However, despite his individual excellence, Santner redirected the spotlight to the seam attack, which played a pivotal role in putting Bangladesh on the defensive during the powerplay. Tim Southee, Adam Milne, and Ben Sears, each contributing with a pair of wickets, proved instrumental in limiting the tourists.
The collective effort culminated in Bangladesh being bowled out in the 20th over, registering the lowest total in a T20 International at Bay Oval. Santner credited the seam attack for their impactful performance, emphasizing the importance of early wickets in the powerplay, which facilitated his and Ish Sodhi’s roles in the middle overs. The team’s disciplined bowling effort resulted in restricting Bangladesh to a commendable total of 110.
The standout performance of Ben Sears emerged as a significant positive for New Zealand as they concluded the year. The 25-year-old, playing at home for the first time in this series, demonstrated considerable promise, reaching speeds nearing 150kph. Sears not only provided a genuine pace option alongside the likes of Adam Milne and Lockie Ferguson but also showcased his ability to consistently hit a hard length at considerable speed, particularly effective in the prevailing conditions.
Mitchell Santner, acknowledging Sears’ noteworthy contributions, commended his skill in delivering impressive performances even when faced with challenging winds. Santner highlighted Sears’ versatility, noting his capability to unleash rapid deliveries both into the wind and downwind, further solidifying his role as a valuable asset to the pace bowling lineup.
Mitchell Santner expressed admiration for Ben Sears, noting the consistent excellence he displayed throughout the series and recognizing a notable upward trajectory in his performance. Santner remarked, “Throughout the series, he’s been very good. He looks to be getting better and better.” This positive progression suggests Sears’ evolving skills and growing impact on the team’s dynamics.
The culmination of his promising performances positions him as a player on an upward trajectory. The next opportunity to witness Sears’ continued development will be in the upcoming five-match T20 series against Pakistan, commencing at Eden Park on January 12. As Sears contributes to New Zealand’s pace bowling arsenal, his ongoing improvement becomes a focal point for the team’s future campaigns.