Cricket News By TODAYLIVESCORE.INFO - The tango of the twos. Skinning the cat differently
Skinning the cat differently
It didn't always look this easy for New Zealand.
At around 3 pm in Sharjah, James Neesham walked out to a very different climate in the middle. Devon Conway had just been run out and the Namibia fielders were all steamed up, putting in the sexy dives and slides to make run-making look extremely difficult.
On one occasion, Gerhard Erasmus ran across from his bowling end and cut off an obvious second run. Neesham would have fetched a couple of runs for that flick on most other days, but it wasn't to be here today.
That stop by Erasmus was, in many ways, a scaled-down version of what Neesham grappled with for his first 10 deliveries. Only allowed five singles until then, his strike-rate compounded the troubles for New Zealand who were at a very modest 96/4 after 16 overs.
As slow and low as this Sharjah pitch was, it didn't help that Neesham had only faced only 8 balls in the tournament coming into this game. Not making it any easier at the other end was Glenn Phillips, who had a bit more hit in the middle but was doing no better than Neesham.
But a two, cruelly downgraded from a boundary by a superb piece of fielding at deep square leg, changed the direction of the winds in Sharjah. Only a ball later, a full toss from Erasmus went flying over deep midwicket, becoming one of the many hits in the last four overs. The phase added 67 runs to the total.
The interesting thing about this match-turning partnership between Neesham and Mitchell wasn't the sixes they hit; it was the twos they ran on this tiny ground, making up for the ones they missed out on before and, in the process, stealing the thunder away from Sharjah and its heat.
And what better way to give it back to the fielders who, not too long ago, had the two batters clogged up and anxious.
There were 10 twos in that partnership in total, each one better than the one before it. And the effects of it manifested in how Namibia abandoned a plan that had worked so well for them until then. The hard lengths were pushed either too full or dragged further back, allowing Phillips and Neesham to hack away 5 sixes and 2 fours to the shorter part of the ground. Probably distracted by that, the Namibia fielders in the deep sat about waiting for mishits while New Zealand snuck away twos from under their noses. No wonder Neesham called the act a “different way of skinning the cat.”
“I think when you play on a surface like that, it's not going to be like it is in Dunedin or Eden Park, you're not going to come out and hit four or five boundaries in 10 balls. So it's a lot more about trying to put pressure on the bowlers in different ways. We were talking after the game that we got something around 74 or 75 or something off the last five overs,” he said.
“It was a different way of skinning the cat, but we knew that anything above that 150 will be a challenge in total. GP (Glenn Phillips) is obviously a pretty quick customer, so it was a bit of a challenge for me to keep up with him. But now the legs have got a little bit of pace on them still, so it wasn't too bad.”
It was certainly the kind of workout that Neesham, and in turn New Zealand, could have done with before their all-important clash — a “virtual quarterfinal” in Neesham's words — against Afghanistan in a day's time.
This win over Namibia means that not only have New Zealand managed to stay clear of the muddied waters of Net Run Rates so far, but through these facile wins over less fancied teams, they have also got two crucial bits of their puzzle together: a) get Martin Guptill back to runs, and b) give their undercooked middle-order a bit of time under the UAE sun.
“It's the nature of how we play our T20 cricket to be honest,” Neesham said. “I think even back in New Zealand, I don't have the stats in front of me. I can't imagine I would have faced more than 20 balls very often for New Zealand. It's all about trying to load up the back end with wickets in hand and come out and be explosive, that's just the nature of the game.
“In this team, I'm batting a lot in the nets at the moment and Luke Ronchi is putting a lot through his shoulder for me to keep the neck off the park and away from the game. It's just about being as free as I can be and as clear as I can in my game plans when I do get out there.
“The nature of being that No. 6 all-rounder is that you're going to be tasked with the game when the game is in hand, so there's going to be pressure situations whether it's today or a semifinal or a final moving forward. I'm all ready for that and certainly no excuses.”
It must be around 3:30pm when Neesham was walking back to the changing room, leaving behind a completely different vibe in the middle. Only half an hour ago, he couldn't get off the blocks but here he was now, with a game-changing 35 not out against his name. Erasmus, on the other hand, hardly looked like the man who had made all the difference in the field. He was walking back like the captain who had gotten it a bit wrong towards the end. The twos had turned the tables in Sharjah, and how.