How the South Africa debacle got New Zealand to the top of the test rankings

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Captain Kane Williamson had no qualms on Wednesday to pinpoint the moment when the foundation was laid for New Zealand to become the world‘s number one Test cricket team for the first time. The Black Caps were confirmed in first place after an all-out win over Pakistan with an innings and 176 runs in the second Test in Christchurch to win the two-Test series. It meant New Zealand won six consecutive Tests for the first time, extending their unbeaten home run to 17 and keeping their hopes of reaching the World Test Championship final in June alive.

It’s far from eight years ago when New Zealand’s cricket reputation was in tatters after being pitched for 45 in the first innings against South Africa in Cape Town.

Williamson, now the world‘s number one-ranked test batsman, scores 13.

Current Black Caps BJ Watling and Trent Boult, who also played in those innings, made zero and one respectively.

Out of that embarrassment came the realization that things had to change, starting with the culture within the team.

Gone are the days when leftovers and senior players ignored younger team members and, as a former Black Cap told AFP, stars are no longer pretending to be injured to avoid training sessions.

“Under Brendon and Hess there were some drastic changes in terms of the culture and that started things,” said Williamson of then-captain Brendon McCullum and coach Mike Hesson.

Williamson said development has continued to the current squad and the captain highlighted the emergence of Kyle Jamieson, who took a man-of-the-match 11 wickets, and Daryl Mitchell, who scored his first test century in the Christchurch test .

“When you see some of the younger guys come in like Daryl Mitchell and Kyle Jamieson, especially in this game, there were some great contributions, but it’s more the attitude they brought that is most satisfying.”

Inclusive culture

McCullum, who captained the squad in the disastrous South African Test and gave Williamson the trophy for winning the Pakistani series on Wednesday, said the players knew change was needed after the South African debacle.

“It was essential for all of us that we wanted the public support and the best way to do that is to make sure you’re out there and try to represent New Zealand with everything you have,” he said.

After being humiliated in South Africa and losing both Tests with an innings, New Zealand drew six and lost two of their next eight Tests before ending 2013 with back-to-back wins over the West Indies and from there steadily improved.

Jamieson said he was impressed with the inclusiveness when he joined the squad, with veterans Tim Southee and Trent Boult eager to take him under their wing.

“I didn’t have to wait in a corner for my time,” he said. A few overs in Pakistan’s second innings in the second Test, Boult took himself off the new ball duties, telling Williamson that he felt better at Jamieson.

How long the New Zealand government will take at the top will depend on the outcome of the current series of four tests between Australia and India, which stands at 1-1. Any of the three parties could be number one at the end.

Promoted

Williamson, who recently became a father for the first time, said he would keep an eye on the Australian Tests, baby duties permitting.

“Maybe if I feed my daughter or change diapers … but I won’t all pay attention,” he said.

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