OPINION: Life as Blackcaps coach has got off to an underwhelming start for Gary Stead, watching on as his team were outclassed in a 3-0 series defeat against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates.
While the Blackcaps were there or thereabouts in the opening two Twenty20s, they fell apart in Monday's final fixture, losing eight wickets for 23 runs.
That leaves Stead with plenty to ponder heading into the three-match ODI series, as he shuffles his papers and picks over the remains of a difficult few days in the desert.
There couldn’t be more of a contrast between Colin Munro and Glenn Phillips.
Munro was at his belligerent best throughout the series, highlighted by crashing knocks of 58 and 44. With his potent mix of leg-side heaves and cross-bat crunches through the covers, he’s quickly established himself as one of the premier openers in the shortest form of the game.
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The 31-year old is vital to getting New Zealand off to a fast start, providing a punchy trampoline to launch the rest of the innings.
Unfortunately, Phillips did the opposite. Stepping in for the injured Martin Guptill, the young keeper produced scores of 12, 5 and 26.
Most concerning was his strike-rate, which only bounced above 100 in one of those knocks.
Despite racking up a century in the Caribbean Premier League this year, Phillips has yet to find his feet in international cricket. A career average of 15 and a strike-rate of 100 aren’t cutting it at the top of the order.
The Blackcaps were run out five times across the series and there were plenty of other mix-ups as well.
The New Zealanders felt the squeeze from some clinical Pakistan bowling, creating plenty of indecision between the wickets.
All-rounder Colin de Grandhomme was dismissed twice, after being caught short, while some of the most senior batsman, like Ross Taylor and Kane Williamson, were also involved in confusing moments.
That's not a major issue across such a small sample of games, but it’s a concerning trend for Stead.
Paceman Adam Milne and Corey Anderson both returned to the fold after long stints on the side-line with injuries.
The opening T20 was Milne’s first for the Blackcaps since November last year, while it’s been even longer for Anderson, who hadn’t played since February 2017.
The left-handed all-rounder showed some promising signs, smoking an unbeaten 44, before a heel injury ruled him out of the last match.
Anderson’s power hitting is a valuable asset in the middle order, but whether he can string together a consistent run of games at the top level remains to be seen.
Milne was good in the two games he played, taking four wickets, before he was replaced by fellow quick Lockie Ferguson for the 47-run loss.
With both express men fit and firing, the Blackcaps have some serious pace at their disposal for the upcoming ODI series
It’s easy to look at a 3-0 serious whitewash and a final-game collapse, and start to jump to some conclusions.
Instead, it’s more worthy to acknowledge just how good Pakistan have been. They’re on an absolute roll - eleven straight Twenty20 series wins, nine consecutive victories, blending vintage cameos from veterans like Mohammad Hafeez with moments of magic from 18-year old Shaheen Afridi.
T20 is, by nature, an unpredictable game, so to assemble a record as dominant and predictable as theirs is nothing short of staggering.
Aside from the last game, the Blackcaps weren’t tossed aside into the sand.
The one-day series is a great chance to fight back and after three hit outs, they should be more accustomed to both Pakistan and the tricky conditions.
Henry Rounce is a Newshub sports reporter.