New Zealand is a side that usually punches above its weight. However, there are certain areas of the game where the Kiwis are lacking. One of them is spin bowling. Since the retirement of Daniel Vettori, the New Zealand team has struggled to find a good-quality spinner.
Briefly, an off-spinner called Mark Craig produced good results in 2014 and 2015 but since then there hasn't been much success for the Kiwis on this front. Last year, the duo of Ajaz Patel and Will Somerville performed admirably in UAE against Pakistan and this year also, in Sri Lanka.
While getting wickets in Asian conditions is relatively easy for tweakers, getting wickets on New Zealand pitches requires much more skill and hard work. And quite frankly, the Kiwis are struggling to find a spinner who can do that. This is why 607 days have passed since New Zealand got a wicket on home soil through spin bowling.
In the first innings of the first Test against England at Mount Maunganui, the hosts again got all their 10 wickets through their seam bowlers. To be fair, not much blame can be attached to the sole spinner in the Kiwi playing XI – Mitchell Santner. The Kane Williamson-led team have a four-man seam bowling attack consisting of Tim Southee, Trent Boult, Neil Wagner, and Colin de Grandhomme.
On top of that, New Zealand isn't a country where a spinner is expected to get wickets in the first innings. Santner, a very good bowler in the shorter formats, bowled just six out of 124 overs in the entire innings.
But it's not this innings that is in focus. What matters is the fact that the Kiwis haven't found a spinner who can make an impact in their home conditions. This simply means that they don't have a tweaker who is world-class.
Interestingly, in the last few years, the New Zealand spin bowling attack in limited-overs format has been quite effective. Bowlers such as Santner and Ish Sodhi have often done a good job for their side. But the extra difficulty of getting wickets in the longer formats on unhelpful pitches is something no Kiwi spinner in nearly two years has been able to surmount.
The high-quality seam bowling duo of Southee and Boult has been so good that there hasn't been much need for assistance from spin bowlers. On top of that, Wagner's ferocity with short-pitched bowling, despite his lack of pace, has also served the team well. De Grandhomme has fitted well in the team as a medium-paced swing bowler, useful in swing-friendly conditions.
However, getting wickets in the second innings on flat pitches, the sort that are found at some locations in New Zealand, requires the presence of good slower bowlers. That search is likely to continue in the series against England.