Southampton – Some similarities between the last Black Caps team to win a test cricket series in England, in 1999, and the current side which beat England in four days yesterday are uncanny.
The 1999 side had four batsmen in the top 10 of all time among New Zealand’s leading run-scorers, in terms of averages: Stephen Fleming 40, Craig McMillan 38; Nathan Astle 37; Chris Cairns 33; Daniel Vettori 30.
This current side’s test batting averages are much better: Kane Williamson 53; Ross Taylor 45; Tom Latham 41; and BJ Watling, though he missed the last test, 41.
The 2021 test team to England has a stronger, more experienced bowling attack: Tim Southee 309 wickets and Henry Wagner 226 wickets compared to Daniel Vettori with 361 test wickets and Chris Cairns with 218 test wickets.
There the similarities lie. However, first and foremost, there can never be comparisons between eras, and which were better, or better than before. The 1999 side did not have the depth or strength in numbers. Geoff Allott, the outstanding leading wicket taker in the preceding one-day World Cup, was not a leading test bowler. Ditto, Chris Harris.
Then in that team Roger Twose was neither one nor the other, just as Richie Benaud once described about Bob Cunis, a New Zealand fast bowler in the early 1970s.
Ironically, that squad had a character, quick bowler Carl Bulfin who, in today’s world, may have performed better.
The backbone of the 1999 test side was Fleming, McMillan, Astle, Cairns, Dion Nash and Adam Parore. Nash had feistiness about him, like Henry Wagner.
He captained New Zealand against Hampshire scoring 137 not out in the first innings, coming in at seven, got 62 in the second and took seven for 39 in Hampshire’s first innings.
Today’s team is substantially so much stronger, more successful and so much depth in terms of experience and in all forms of the game. Their relaxed and measured attitude after the win at Edgbaston shows that.
One of the strengths of the 1999 side was the direction from the top, led by Fleming and the fun but iron-fisted manager, the late John (DJ) Graham, a former All Blacks captain.
Indirectly or directly, he brought the best out of the likes of Parore, Cairns and Nash.
Also, that side played four, not just two tests in the series, against England. Significantly, the Black Caps then won both tests in London – at Lord’s and the final test, at the Oval.
The night celebrating the tour at the Royal Garden Hotel, after beating England at the Oval will remain such great memories for those players and those connected with the team.
The 2021 squad is so much deeper; which gives credence to the1999 team’s results. But, different times, different eras. The only focus now is the Ageas Bowl, Southampton, the venue for next week’s inaugural cricket world test championship final against India.