“Taking advantage of every little opportunity is what defines a successful sportsperson.”
Jimmy Neesham hadn’t featured in a single ODI since the Champions Trophy debacle for New Zealand in 2017. This is where they failed to win a single game.
Staging a comeback at Bay Oval, Neesham came out to bat in the 47th over. The damage had already been done by the top order batsmen. The time was limited and all he could do was take the Kiwis off to the shore.
To make an impact in these many balls was a tough ask. On the other hand, his place was at stake and doing anything extraordinary meant risking it all. However, Neesham went out of the normal way and started whacking it away to the fence. Thisara Perera who was the best Sri Lankan bowler till then took over the proceedings in the 49th over. Little did anyone know what storm was to follow.
On five consecutive deliveries, Neesham deposited the ball in the stands. Whether it was towards the midwicket or straight down the ground or over the roof towards long on. Neesham’s bat was igniting the fire with every maximum. From 322/6 in 48 overs, the Black Caps cruised to 356/6 in 49 overs. All in a space of just six balls. The last over from Malinga yielded 15 runs with Neesham finishing off in style with a six.
As the hosts secured a win by 45 runs, Neesham’s contribution of 47(13)* did end up being the difference between both the teams. Not only did he contribute with the bat, but the all-rounder also went on to pick three wickets as well. While Sri Lanka were off to a great start with 119/0, Neesham sent back both the openers off consecutive overs. Later, he even got rid of Dinesh Chandimal.
Next ODI, Neesham was promoted to No.6 and had more than 12 overs in hand. He didn’t directly go for the hunt and paced his innings according to the match situation. However, he spared no bad balls in the process and again provided a brilliant finish to the Kiwis. A sensational knock of 64 runs from just 37 balls. The statement was clear and out. Neesham has been making the lower order position his own with these rollicking performances.
Coming out to bat at No.6 or No.7 isn’t an easy job. Nowadays rather than waiting for a few balls, the finishers are expected to get going from the very first delivery. If Jimmy Neesham can continue the job he has done so far, no doubt he would be amongst the top contenders in the reckoning for the World Cup. The Kiwis already have a bulk of all-rounders with Colin De Grandhomme, Mitchell Santner and now Jimmy himself.
For a long time now, Jimmy has been a fantastic troll on social media and kept his fans engaged on Twitter. Maybe now is the time he starts entertaining his fans on the field as well. The timing couldn’t have been any better and the upcoming limited overs season provides him with the perfect opportunity to make it count. With the conditions in England likely to favor the pacers, a fast bowling all-rounder of his caliber will be a valuable asset to New Zealand’s chances.
The Kiwis haven’t played much 50 over games in 2018. Hence the ongoing series against Sri Lanka alongside the upcoming One Day Internationals lined up versus India and Bangladesh will be quite vital in fixing their combination for the tournament. With all of these scheduled at home, Neesham will be fancying to grab the limelight and rise to the occasion. A fiery pinch hitter and a lanky right arm pacer.
Is he capable of becoming a potential Ben Stokes or a promising Hardik Pandya or a once in a blue moon Mitchell Marsh?
Only time will say, which league does Neesham belong to. But the comeback couldn’t have been any more of a fairytale. The 28-year-old will be willing to make a permanent place in the playing XI and with performances like these, nothing can stop him.
There’s little sense in repeating.