NZ, in the fast lane
For visiting pacers, retaining their potency on the unaccomodating tracks of the subcontinent has remained the biggest challenge. Only the best — Walsh, McGrath, Marshall, Steyn — have managed to pull it off. When New Zealand won at the P Sara Oval, the young pace trio of Tim Southee, Trent Boult and Doug Bracewell picked up 18 of the 20 wickets that fell.
From Hadlee to Bond, NZ have always had the one exceptional pacer, but never a set that could complement each other. The trio, all of whom are 23 or younger, represent some source of optimism.
At about this time last year, NZ defeated Australia in an away Test for the first time in 27 years, Bracewell's six-wicket burst in the second innings the decisive factor. If the performance can be devalued on counts of Hobart being a pace friendly track, Southee's seven-for at Bangalore saw the Kiwis run India close.
Despite the side not winning a Test this year, the Kiwis have tended to do well each time the three have played together.
Against SA in Dunedin, the three, supporting Chris Martin, helped NZ to a 40-run first innings lead in a rain-affected draw. In August against WI, the three picked up eight wickets to force a 51-run lead, only for the batsmen to bungle it. A month later in Bangalore, the script repeated itself. Despite Southee and the lead, the side lost.
The first Test in Lanka saw another second innings batting collapse and another loss. When the batsmen finally scored 400 for the first time this year, the trio didn't disappoint. Up next is a tour to South Africa followed by England's visit, and on the conducive wickets, the pacers could help NZ aspire to more than the occasional upset win. Batsmen willing.