New Zealand cricket coach Mike Hesson has a philosophy of
using local expertise to supplement his coaching team when on
tour and the most useful addition might now be a sports
In yesterday's second innings against Sri Lanka, when they
were rolled for just 118, the batsmen were seemingly undone
as much by their own heads as the spin of Rangana Herath, who
finished with match figures of 11-108.
They appear to get themselves into a spin when facing
tweakers - their latest capitulation is not a recent
phenomenon - and yesterday it was almost as if they were
inventing ways to get out.
The nature of some of the dismissals was reckless, and
players of yesteryear like Andrew Jones and Mark Richardson,
who rarely gave away their wickets, would have been left
shaking more than their heads.
The current crop don't play express pace particularly well
but their attempts to combat spin are even more disastrous
and they have now been undone by spin in the last five tests,
losing all five.
It started with West Indies off-spinner Sunil Narine (12
wickets in 2-0 series defeat), continued as Ravichandran
Ashwin (18 wickets) and Pragyan Ojha (13 wickets) handed
India a 2-0 series win and they are now being bamboozled by
The immediate future doesn't bode well given the series heads
to Colombo where the wicket is expected to turn more than it
did in Galle.
Perhaps the most distasteful thing about the latest defeat is
the fact they were well in the match for the first two days.
The bowlers, led superbly by Tim Southee, put them in a good
position only for the batsmen to once again let them down.
"You have to give credit to Sri Lanka," captain Ross Taylor
said. "When they were in trouble at 5-50 Mahela [Jayawardene]
and Angelo Mathews batted very well and Herath, once again,
dominated our batting lineup.
"Leading into the next game, we need to come up with a plan
to combat Herath. I thought we played [off-spinner Suraj]
Randiv pretty well but our methods, the way we are going to
rotate the strike and score and negate [Herath's] ability to
take wickets will be crucial in the next match."
Their mental approach to Herath will be just as crucial. New
Zealand will have a couple more days than planned in the nets
where they need to come up with a plan but they also need to
be able to overcome the obvious psychological barriers.
Former New Zealand allrounder and selector Dion Nash said New
Zealand's top order "don't have the skills" to compete at the
moment but it wasn't impossible to turn it around.
"If Mark Richardson, who was effectively a bowler who batted
10, can turn himself over the course of his career into an
international-class opening batsman through application and
strong mental application and practice, it sort of tells us
really that that's what's required," Nash said.
"It's about thinking smart and adapting, having a bit of
gumption and a little bit of luck now and then as well."
Unfortunately, New Zealand are not awash with options. Rob
Nicol is the only batting alternative on tour - why they
couldn't keep BJ Watling, who was clearly in good nick in the
one-dayers, on tour is mystifying - and, Jesse Ryder aside,
there are few in New Zealand with compelling cases.
"We struggled in our first test match against India and came
back and we will do everything we possibly can in the next
five days leading up to the next test match," Taylor said.
They were much improved in that second test against India -
they lost the first by an innings and 115 runs and the second
by five wickets but posted 365 in their first turn at bat -
and will need to be again. Otherwise they risk losing the few
fans still backing them.
- additional reporting Cameron McMillan