A data-driven strategic guide on how to beat New Zealand.
Pick left-handers to mess with their deployment
New Zealand are almost certain to select one of Ish Sodhi and Mitchell Santner and may well pick both bowlers in their team. Conventional match-ups suggest that left-handers are an effective means of countering right-to-left spinners and as such teams with a lot of lefties may disrupt New Zealand’s usage of these two bowlers.
It’s worth noting that Santner is actually as effective against left-handers as he is against right-handers and despite being a wrist spinner and therefore someone who can spin the ball both ways, Sodhi is the bowler who struggles more against left-handers.
Australia are right-hander heavy and dependent on Warner to counter left-arm spin and leg spin so New Zealand can be expected to play both Santner and Sodhi, but England have a very leftie dominant middle order and could prove problematic for the Kiwis. In the World Cup semi final last year Santner only bowled one over due to England’s left-handers batting through the middle phase.
It has snuck under the radar but New Zealand have made a significant addition to their squad this time around and now have the off spin all rounder Michael Bracewell to call on. Bracewell is having a superb year and provides New Zealand with quality spin away from the left-handers whereas in the past they’ve had to use the part-time spin of Glenn Phillips or Kane Williamson. It remains to be seen whether Bracewell will start in the team but he could be brought into the side against left-hander heavy teams such as England. The most effective way to counter the pair of Bracewell and Santner is for teams to utilise right-hand, left-hand combinations.
The other potential chink in the armour of New Zealand’s bowling is Jimmy Neesham who provides a pace bowling all rounder to cover for any overs left unbowled by the frontline attack. Neesham is clearly the weakest of New Zealand’s pace bowling options: in games that New Zealand have lost since 2021 his economy rate of 11.18 is easily the highest of all their bowlers and he hasn’t taken a single wicket in six defeats in this period.
Milne can be targetted
Adam Milne is another interesting bowler for New Zealand. Depending on the balance of their attack he may not start with Trent Boult, Tim Southee and Lockie Ferguson ahead in the pecking order but a pace bowler-heavy team could see him selected. Milne’s numbers at domestic level are superb but he has struggled to make the step up to T20Is and his high pace can prove gettable. Indeed, in games that New Zealand have lost since the start of last year he has conceded runs at 10.54 runs per over – second only to Neesham. In a pace-heavy team selection he represents a bowler who could be targeted.
Conway’s wicket brings right-to-left spin into the game v the top order
Much like David Warner for Australia, Devon Conway is the only top-order left-hander in this team and as a result his wicket takes on disproportionate importance because he plays a role in dissuading left-arm spin and leg spin being bowled to the top order.
However, it should be noted though that Conway is a better player of away spin (off spin to him) than in-spin (left-arm spin and leg spin) so teams shouldn’t be dissuaded from bowling that to him when he’s paired with a right-hander. That said, left-arm spinners and leg spinners would still rather bowl to a right-hander and removing Conway is a key that unlocks the rest of the batting order.
The trouble is Conway is a batter without obvious weakness. One option teams should consider is going right-arm round the wicket, where his average falls to ‘only’ 33 compared to 51 from over the wicket.
Cutters & off spin to the lower order
While New Zealand’s top order might be right-hander heavy, their lower-order could well be very left-hander heavy with potentially three lefties at five, six and seven if Neesham, Bracewell and Santner all play. If New Zealand do adopt this balance then teams should consider utilising off cutters at the death and potentially even hold an over of off spin back. Australia are nicely set-up for this with Pat Cummins thriving against left-handers and Glenn Maxwell providing an off spin option.
Hit them with high pace
New Zealand’s batting has some issues against high pace with Allen, Conway, Phillips, Neesham and Chapman all possessing poor records against balls above 140 kph. Perhaps surprisingly, Santner has a solid record against high pace while Mitchell and Williamson are superb against it. These three players will play an important role in shielding the rest of the lower order from express pace at the back-end.
Freddie Wilde is head of Performance Analysis at CricViz.