It isn’t often that Tim Southee ends up on the sidelines, least of all in a World Cup year, while New Zealand were facing one of the favourites for that tournament. The 30-year old fast bowler has played only two of six limited-overs matches in the ongoing series against India but showed glimpses of his best self during the T20I on Wednesday, taking 3 for 17 and helping his team to victory by 80 runs.
“It’s a tough one,” Southee said. “A number of guys that needed game time and I know I haven’t been at my best with the white-ball for a while. It’s never nice missing out but just have to make the most of opportunities when you get them.”
And he did, bouncing out the India captain Rohit Sharma with his second ball of the match. Just as importantly, Southee showed signs of the swing that seemed to have gone out of his bowling, which has led to his ODI average ballooning to 45 since the end of the last World Cup.
So, did it feel like he had a point to prove coming back into the XI? “Not at all. Any time you get a chance to play, you’re going out there to do your job and your role for the team. It was no different last night. Felt like I’ve been bowling really well in the nets and for me it was just about transforming that form from the nets to the game. Different when you’ve been sitting on the sidelines for a while and to go out there, there’s obviously excitement, few nerves, but obviously nice way to start the series.
“Sometimes in T20 cricket, it can feel really nice and your figures can look really different. It was just a part of almost the perfect puzzle last night, the perfect team performance.
When asked why he’s run into trouble in limited-overs cricket lately, Southee pointed to a “lack of wickets”, but was quick to add that there were mitigating circumstances.
“There’s been times in the last year or so I’ve felt I’ve bowled extremely well at times and haven’t got wickets or supported [Trent] Boulty at the other end. So I guess you’re always looking at ways to get better, always looking at ways to try and improve as a cricketer. So it’s just always [about being] involved in the game and look in a different way so you can get better and looking back to when you were at your best and how you were operating then.”
New Zealand handed India their worst T20I defeat, in Wellington, and were keen on sealing the series in Auckland, where Southee expects a full house.
“Last night was a good atmosphere and I think tomorrow will be an amazing atmosphere too. I think it’ll probably be the first time Eden Park’s been sold out since the 2015 World Cup. Doesn’t happen too often when we play there. Will be a very noisy crowd and one the guys are very much looking forward to.”