The rise of New Zealand

 Since May 2017, New Zealand have the highest success rate in Tests among all teams - 66.67%

Since May 2017, New Zealand have the highest success rate in Tests among all teams - 66.67% ©Getty

New Zealand have reached the top of ICC rankings for the first time in their history following a 2-0 series win against Pakistan at home. Having played their inaugural Test match in 1930 by becoming the fifth nation to play Test cricket after England, Australia, South Africa, and West Indies, it took nine decades for them to climb atop team rankings following successful runs, first under Brendon McCullum and later Kane Williamson.

How did New Zealand reach top of ICC team rankings?

The Test matches since May 2017 are in consideration, a period in which New Zealand has the highest success rate among all teams - 66.67% - though they have played fewer Tests than all teams barring Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, Ireland, and Afghanistan.

New Zealand played 11 series in this period - eight at home and three away. They won all eight rubbers played at home and haven't lost a single home Test since the defeat to South Africa in Wellington in March 2017. They toured UAE, Sri Lanka, and Australia in this period - beat Pakistan 2-1 in UAE, drew 1-1 level in Sri Lanka, and got whitewashed 0-3 Down Under.

Click Here NZ series by series since May 2017

West IndiesNew Zealand2017-182Won 2-0
EnglandNew Zealand2017-182Won 1-0
PakistanUAE2018-193Won 2-1
Sri LankaNew Zealand2018-192Won 1-0
BangladeshNew Zealand2018-192Won 2-0
Sri LankaSri Lanka20192Draw 1-1
EnglandNew Zealand2019-202Won 1-0
AustraliaAustralia2019-203Lost 0-3
IndiaNew Zealand2019-202Won 2-0
West IndiesNew Zealand2020-212Won 2-0
PakistanNew Zealand2020-211Won 2-0

Who are the key players behind the successful run?

The current core of players was forged during the reign of previous skipper McCullum. Williamson, Ross Taylor, Henry Nicholls, and opener Tom Latham form the crux of batting lineup while the triumvirate of Trent Boult, Tim Southee, and Neil Wagner join forces in the bowling unit. Wicketkeeper BJ Watling and all-rounder Colin de Grandhomme bridge the two units. Kyle Jamieson is the latest exciting addition to the core in 2020.

Tom Latham has scored more runs and hit more centuries than any other New Zealand opener barring John Wright and at 28, Latham in all likelihood will go past Wright's records and finish as his country's best ever opening batsman by the time he hangs up his boots.

In the decade preceding Latham's Test debut in 2014, New Zealand tried as many as 17 openers, and were the worst performing side when it came to openers. The last three-four years witnessed the rise of pace bowling across the world which has particularly been adverse for the openers. Latham has emerged as one of the best in the business in recent times, averaging 47.64 since May 2017 and is counted among the best opening batsman of the times alongside the likes of David Warner, Dean Elgar and Dimuth Karunaratne.

In Williamson, New Zealand have the best-ever batsman the country has ever produced. He's currently ranked #1 in ICC ratings ahead of Virat Kohli and Steve Smith. New Zealand did produce world class batsmen in the past too like Bert Sutcliffe in the 1950s, Glen Turner in 1970s and Martin Crowe in 1980s, but they never had the supporting cast which is at Williamson's disposal right now. Since taking over as captain from McCullum in 2016, Williamson has averaged 62.81 in 35 Tests with 11 hundreds including three doubles.

Williamson is followed by Ross Taylor, New Zealand's all-time leading run-getter and Henry Nicholls. In the trio, New Zealand have three batsman averaging 40-plus in the same middle-order - a luxury New Zealand have never had in their history before. The middle order trio have been even more lethal at home - Williamson averaging 65.31, Taylor 54.37 and Nicholls 50.03.

In Williamson, New Zealand have the best-ever batsman the country has ever produced
In Williamson, New Zealand have the best-ever batsman the country has ever produced ©AFP

Highest avg among NZ players (50+ innings)

B Sutcliffe4276272740.10515230*
GM Turner4173299144.64714259
MD Crowe77131544445.361718299
AH Jones3974292244.27711186
SP Fleming111189717240.06946274*
MH Richardson3865277644.77419145
LRPL Taylor105183737945.831934290
KS Williamson83144711554.312432251
TWM Latham5697392942.241120264*
HM Nicholls3755215243.91710174

Watling is New Zealand's perpetual crisis man, rescuing them from top-order collapses time and again. He has been a safe pair behind the stumps to the pacers and have scored important runs down the order - both home and away. He averages a shade under 40 at home and 37 away but more importantly the average shoots to 49.61 when New Zealand win. Many of his crucial knocks have come in the third innings when the team was behind or while trying to salvage a draw. He will go down as his country's best ever and most successful wicketkeeper batsman in the longest format.

The trio of Southee-Boult-Wagner comprise New Zealand's most formidable seam attack. Richard Hadlee and Shane Bond were far more lethal on their own but rarely have had support cast to hunt as a pack. The current trio has featured together in 36 Tests since Wagner's debut, of which New Zealand have won 22 and lost just six Tests. While the three have near identical stats in the matches they featured together, all three brings varying aspects to make the attack multi-dimensional.

Southee and Boult being predominantly swing bowlers, have mastered using the crease to create different angles. Wagner, on the other hand, relies mostly on hitting the hard lengths. He uses the left-arm round the wicket angle to create awkward angles to batsman and his natural length make it even more uncomfortable for the batsmen at the other end to negate. Wagner's ability to bowl long spells at a stretch makes him an invaluable asset in any attack.