Santner admits tactical misstep in not playing second spinner at Edgbaston

Mitchell Santner had used two adjectives in his pre-Pakistan game press conference to describe his side’s progress so far: adaptable and scrappy. True to the words, New Zealand overcame a horror beginning that saw them slide to 42 for 4 and pushed an impressive Pakistan side all the way before succumbing to their first loss of the tournament.
Where New Zealand faltered, as Santner admitted to after the game, was in their reading of the Edgbaston pitch. Craig McMillan and Kane Williamson spent a good time feeling the surface when covers were eventually peeled off and decided to play an unchanged side for a sixth-straight game. That meant, on a track that saw a Mohammad Hafeez delivery stop and break as early as the third ball of the match, Santner played as the lone frontline spinner.
The realisation of having missed a trick – the option of playing Ish Sodhi – hit New Zealand early enough as Kane Williamson stepped out to bowl on the practice wickets alongside Colin Munro during the innings break. With Santner beating batsmen consistently with turn during the target defence, the New Zealand captain brought himself on in the 25th over of the chase and dismissed a set Hafeez in his first over.
But where a frontline spinner like Santner constantly posed questions of the batsmen’s technique – he even had Babar Azam dropped by Tom Latham on 38 – the part-time profile of Williamson’s bowling showed in the way the pair of Babar and Haris Sohail working the singles without too many difficulties.
“Obviously there was a bit of turn out there, probably more than we thought there would be. Obviously at the toss, only going with one spinner, we thought it might be a bit better than that,” Santner said on Wednesday (June 26). “I think we fought pretty well to the end and I guess they only got it in the last over. It was obviously a tough surface and we just had to stick at it. If we could put a couple on it, a couple of wickets on throughout that chase it might have been a little bit different.
“It’s the spinner’s role to take wickets on a surface like that but I think credit has to go to the way Pakistan batted throughout the middle. That partnership through the middle there was pretty special. There were a couple of chances there but it’s about trying to build up pressure from both ends and stuff like that, but the way they were able to manipulate the field, and get their ones, when you’re only chasing 230, is the way to go about it,” Santner added.
That New Zealand worked themselves into the game despite being reduced to 42 for 4 was down to James Neesham, who brought a seldom-before-seen steel to his batting. Neesham made 97 – his highest ODI score – but had to soak up pressure, alongside Colin de Grandhomme, in the early part of the partnership when Shaheen Afridi dictated the tempo.