James Neesham working to evolve himself as a limited-overs batsman


The allrounder played a destructive innings in Dunedin then held his nerve with the final over of the match

There was no shortage of sixes in Dunedin on Thursday and six of them came off the bat of Jimmy Neesham including three off the first three deliveries he faced.

However, the most extraordinary of them was at the beginning of the last over from Daniel Sams when he reversed scooped the left-arm quick over third man. Even taking into account the short boundaries, and the fact there seems no limits to what batsmen can do, it was a brilliant bit of strokeplay.

It all suggests that the work that Neesham has been putting into his batting to expand his shot range is paying dividends. The season is shaping as a very good one for him in T20Is where he is currently striking at 197.10 in eight matches against West Indies, Pakistan and Australia. He might prove an IPL steal at INR 50 lakh (USD 68,000/NZD 92,500 approx) for Mumbai Indians.

“It’s probably not good enough in the modern-day and age to be a guy who just stands there and tries to hit sixes over long-on and cow corner,” he told reporters at Auckland airport as the New Zealand squad headed home for a couple of days before the series resumes in Wellington.

“I think you have to be a little bit more nuanced than that. It’s sort of something I’ve been working on. I’m still quite a leg-side dominant player.

“I’m trying to expand my game as much as I can. Those sorts of shots, when you think of the very, very best players in the world, guys like Jos Buttler and the like, they can hit the ball 360 degrees around the park. It’s certainly something that you try and develop and it’s something that I’m trying to bring into my game.”

In Dunedin there was very little margin of error for the bowlers, which is what made Trent Boult‘s final over, the 18th of Australia’s run chase, so outstanding as he conceded just six when Marcus Stoinis and Daniel Sams were taking the game away from New Zealand. It meant 30 runs were needed off the last two and 15 from the last, which was enough for Neesham to defended – in his only over of the innings.

“I knew pretty early on that it was probably going to be me [to bowl it],” Neesham said. “I was just trying to keep it really simple, trying to bowl yorkers. Dunedin is obviously a really small ground so you need a little bit of luck and in that capacity I think one of the better yorkers I actually bowled Marcus Stoinis managed to still get out of the park so when that happens you just shrug your shoulders and try and hit the next one.”

Although Australia actually did reasonably well to limited New Zealand to 219, the only time they have had any hold on the batting was the early stages of the opening match in Christchurch when they claimed three Powerplay wickets before Devon Conway took the game away from them.

“The plans we have are good, but if you miss by that much it’s going over the fence,” Kane Richardson said. “Yesterday was the perfect example at the end, bowling to Jimmy Neesham, were we knew all he was trying to do was hit us over the leg side which was the short boundary anyway, so to try and go a little bit wider to take that out his arc.

“But if he misses it it’s going to be called a wide. Eventually that will play in your head because you don’t want to keep running in bowling wides so we had to go a bit straighter and the ultimate punishment is going for six.

While Richardson wasn’t spared the punishment, with his second over costing 21 and his third 14, he had some success at the death with his last over, the 19th, costing just four runs and claiming two wickets.

“It’s about being as defensive as you can and trying to bowl for ones, which is again is so hard to do because if you try that wide yorker and miss by that much, [Martin] Guptill was hitting it over cover or lapping it,” he said. “You’ve just got try and find a way to get ones, if it’s a cut shot, it’s a bad-looking ball but if they cut it deep for one that’s a win.”

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo

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