New Zealand arrived in Australia ranked No. 2 in the world and with genuine belief they could challenge the home side, but instead left whitewashed in their worst-ever defeat.
They will head back across the Tasman needing to urgently regroup before facing India – which begins with the white-ball matches followed by two Tests in February – with reputations, if not quite on the line, then in need of some urgent repair work.
That is especially the case for the batting which had a collective failure across the three Tests, their highest score eventually being 256 (after the boost of five penalty runs for Marnus Labuschagne and David Warner running in the danger area) which was the lowest high score a visiting side has made in a series of at least three Tests in Australia.
In the first three innings of the series, when the contest was on the line, they could not make 200 with only Tom Blundell’s hundred and Glenn Phillips’ debut half-century offering later boosts. Blundell’s 172 runs was their highest tally for the series and there were just four individual fifties to go alongside his century. Although at times they did not get the rub of the green, highlighted by Tom Latham’s borderline lbw decision in the second innings in Sydney, they were rarely able to handle the sustained pressure of Australia’s attack.
“It’s just not one or two things, it’s a number of things – basically, in all departments we were outplayed,” Kane Williamson, who had missed the final Test with flu, said at the presentation. “With the ball in hand there was an incredible effort throughout the series, but at the same time, we really did struggle to put them under pressure for any period of time, to pick up wickets in clumps, and then a lot of credit goes to the way they played with the bat as well.
“With the bat, it was kind of the reverse situation, where we weren’t able to get any partnerships together to create any sort of first-innings total to apply any pressure.
“So a number of areas [to work on], and we got exposed in a number of respects over here with an outstanding side in Australia with a fantastic bowling attack. It’s important as individuals and a group that we do use this experience to be better for it as players, but collectively come out of it stronger.”
“For us it’s [about] staying tight, maybe regrouping a little bit, we’ve got a bit of time off before our next series but also so much to learn from this experience, and we must make sure we do so.”
Latham, who stood in for Williamson as captain, admitted there would be some soul-searching after the team had arrived with such high expectations but cautioned against any kneejerk reactions.
“There’s no one more disappointed than ourselves. We came over here with some high expectations. You want to come over here and play a good brand of cricket and win. We’ve failed to do that and that’s cricket, it’s important we do try and learn from this,” he said. “Australia set the standard in this series, we knew they were a tough opponent and that’s a standard we need to try and reach.
“We have been playing some decent Test cricket and it’s important we don’t start pointing the finger or looking at other factors. It’s important we learn from this and when we get back together as a red ball team we face India and we can hopefully play our brand of cricket.”