The new and old of New Zealand cricket
Plus some notes on day 1
There was a point today when Kyle Jamieson was chasing a Ravi Jadeja cut shot to the boundary. For a second, he thought about diving but then realised it was too late, and so he just kept running and launched himself over the boundary boards.
Kyle Jamieson is an incredible physical specimen. For someone like him, it's just about finding a sport he can excel at. At his height, Basketball, Rugby, Tennis and Volleyball are all quite valid options. He might have chosen cricket regardless,but in the amateur era, another sport that had money may have poached him.
And even if he had chosen cricket, in an amateur environment, there is no guarantee Jamieson would have been able to turn himself from a promising young batter into perhaps the most complete bowler in Tests. That takes a full-time investment in his career, coaches, facilities, A tours, diet, analysis, all of it. Kyle Jamieson is very much the product of what New Zealand cricket is now.
He came into this series averaging just over 14. Many pointed to the fact that he had bowled only in New Zealand and England. Which is true. It's also true that despite favourable pitches, almost no bowlers in history have an average of around 14 from their first eight games.
This is not an ordinary bowler, and in his first test outside of cloudy environs, he showed again how skilful he is. Tall bowlers rarely swing the ball; tall bowlers aren't usually this fast. Having a decent pace while moving the ball both ways is almost the ideal Test bowler. Not to mention he also seems very smart. He is a consistent threat on bounce or sideways movement, and his release is so high that there is no proper way to prepare for him.
And if you look at his wickets today, you can see these skills in play. Jamieson's first wicket was the one that moved away. It was a ball on a tricky length. Mayank Agarwal was trapped between defensive and a push for the run. And it took the outside edge.
The ball to Shubman Gill came back in. With the ball having faded and probably before we saw any genuine reverse, Jamieson somehow moved on back in another to take the inside edge. It was a very full ball, the sort that are a bit floaty from bowlers his height, but his strong wrist and decent pace mean his full balls are far more dangerous than usual. And he explodes Gill's stumps.
The ball to dismiss Ajinkya Rahane is not as important as ones earlier that pitched in the same place and that bounced quite high for this pitch. He got the same ball this time, but it bounced less and came back in again.
That's three wickets, moving out, moving in, and with bounce as an issue. He won't always have days like this, especially in India, but it shows that this isn't just a flash in the pan. This is what Kyle Jamieson is, an incredible professional.
There was another point today where Will Somerville had to chase a ball out to the boundary, and he did it like a middle-aged accountant in a club game.
Will Somerville is a middle-aged accountant. His journey to the New Zealand team is so fascinating. Born in New Zealand, schooled in Australia before heading back to New Zealand. He did this as a regular Joe, in no way a potential Test player.
In a 16-year first class career, he's playing his 38th match, and even those have been weird. He played a couple in New Zealand for Otago in 2006. (That is just four years after New Zealand domestic players went on strike (although as Iain O'Brien and others have said, it's hard to call it a strike when you didn't have jobs)). Somerville played one more in 2008. Then his fourth match was for New South Wales, where he played sporadically over the next few years for 12 matches. Then in 2018, he came back to Auckland, played two matches, and then played his first Tests a few months later.
This is not the career of a professional cricketer; this is the kind of thing you saw back in the amateur days. He travels for work and study, careers start and fizzle, and pops back home and then is suddenly in the Test team.
Somerville is not a bad bowler. At 193CM, he has a good advantage over other spinners. He has good momentum through the crease and varies his release a lot.
But so far they have only used him for away Tests. While that's more common for Western spinners, it's still a weird career. It gets odder; most of his success so far has been bowling with the newer ball. That might be because he gets good drift, and when the ball is harder, it suits him as a tall bowler.
He's also very economical. For long stints today he was going at around two runs an over. His accuracy and height mean that batters will struggle to score quickly off him. From his limited overs from the last few years, his economy is very good.
But Somerville didn't get any wickets. He is a very handy bowler to have as your back-up. Perhaps had he been identified by New Zealand at a young age, made cricket his main profession, and developed that way instead of randomly across both sides the Tasman, he'd be a more dynamic Test bowler.
The closest he got to a wicket today was probably a DRS LBW that went against him when Shreyas Iyer played across a straight one.
Mostly he gave New Zealand some control, so the other bowlers could attack. It was needed, as Tim Southee was injured for a period. Ajaz Patel struggled with line and length at times. And Rachin Ravindra showed some talent and why he has a first class bowling average of over 50.
You could argue that he isn't ever going to be a great Test bowler fairly convincingly. Even if the ability to play first class cricket in two countries is something on its own. Yet even if he is limited, he has a purpose and a worth within this team.
But what I saw today was a weird mix of the past and future of New Zealand cricket. Somerville represents the amateur era. Where obviously, talented players would maximise their talent on their own to end up as solid internationals. And Jamieson is where NZC can take a late bloomer with physical strengths and turn them into one of the best players in the world.
Just some other notes on the day.
Shreyas Iyer is really interesting from today, he started really nervous, and New Zealand had a real chance of a cheap wicket, until Ajaz Patel bowled him a half-tracker, and he seemed to pull his way out of the slump. His batting was also interesting when you looked at what bowlers he chose to attack, the left-arm orthodox bowlers spinning the ball away from him. He took a lot of risks against them, and he’s not out, so I suppose it worked. Shreyas Iyer also took the bold move of not bending his cap peak.
Ajaz Patel started with some very fascinating deliveries in his first over. In fact, all day he bowled some very good ones. But he also bowled a whole heap of shit. Short, wide, and over-pitched. You can probably pick one, or maybe two, but to have all three. This is a wicket in his favour, the obvious thing to do is to land the ball in the same spot a lot and let the batters make the next move. He was either unable, or unwilling to do that. That he ended the day bowling purposeful wides down leg tells you a lot.
Very good news that Tim Southee’s groin is ok. But it’s also very disappointing that on a day that seemed to favour spin bowling, the two kiwi quicks took all four of the wickets. This is the burning question of how their good run can hold up in Asia.