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New Zealand: Looking forward to the Semi - Finals?

Mark Horowitz Mar 23, 2015 No Comment 64,004 views

The best in-form side of the Cricket World Cup. Other teams have great players winning them matches and trudging them forward, the Kiwis have form. Going into the semi-final, the Kiwis start with their noses slightly in front.

New Zealand Cricket Team - It's their best chance to win trophy
New Zealand Cricket Team - It's their best chance to win trophy

New Zealand; the World Cup’s in form side. The Kiwis have been playing some fantastic cricket for a long time now. Over the past 18 months, the Zealanders have been one of the best teams in the World and have won over 85% of all their games. As they entered this edition of the World Cup, there was tremendous pressure & expectation from the home team & boy haven’t they delivered.

New Zealand are looking a formidable unit with very few weaknesses, if any, to guard about. Pressure, and perhaps the wait of expectation is possibly their biggest concern leading into the semi final. The Kiwis like the Proteas, have never made it to the Finals of the World Cup, despite having made numerous semi finals. After they obliterated West Indies, courtesy a ravishing display from Martin Guptill, as he displayed why the selectors & McCullum kept so much faith in him enroute the 2nd double century of this year’s World Cup. West Indies never looked the part, as New Zealand put up yet another 300 + total, batting and decimating the Windies out of the tournament. Even a whirlwind 50 from Chris Gayle could not bring them anywhere close to the required target.

As we build up towards tomorrow’s important encounter, New Zealand must get over the semi final nerve and battle weight of expectation. All the news papers are going to be talking about it, the grounds are going to be packed to the rosters, the media are going to be in a frenzy; it all builds up to this. For New Zealand, it really would be a whole lot simpler to play the final, than the semis. Add to that, they are playing in Auckland and not Melbourne. You could expect the weight and burden of performance to just lift off their shoulders if they make the finals; but that is not happening in tomorrow’s game.

Strengths

Opening

New Zealand; the World Cup’s in form side. The Kiwis have been playing some fantastic cricket for a long time now. Over the past 18 months, the Zealanders have been one of the best teams in the World and have won over 85% of all their games. As they entered this edition of the World Cup, there was tremendous pressure & expectation from the home team & boy haven’t they delivered.

New Zealand are looking a formidable unit with very few weaknesses, if any, to guard about. Pressure, and perhaps the wait of expectation is possibly their biggest concern leading into the semi final. The Kiwis like the Proteas, have never made it to the Finals of the World Cup, despite having made numerous semi finals. After they obliterated West Indies, courtesy a ravishing display from Martin Guptill, as he displayed why the selectors & McCullum kept so much faith in him enroute the 2nd double century of this year’s World Cup. West Indies never looked the part, as New Zealand put up yet another 300 + total, batting and decimating the Windies out of the tournament. Even a whirlwind 50 from Chris Gayle could not bring them anywhere close to the required target.

As we build up towards tomorrow’s important encounter, New Zealand must get over the semi final nerve and battle weight of expectation. All the news papers are going to be talking about it, the grounds are going to be packed to the rosters, the media are going to be in a frenzy; it all builds up to this. For New Zealand, it really would be a whole lot simpler to play the final, than the semis. Add to that, they are playing in Auckland and not Melbourne. You could expect the weight and burden of performance to just lift off their shoulders if they make the finals; but that is not happening in tomorrow’s game.

Brendon McCullum’s Captaincy

Brendon McCullum’s captaincy has been fantastic this tournament. We spoke about AB’s performance as captain, but in all honestly, McCullum has been one of the tournament’s best captains. Even Michael Clarke would be proud. Brendon has been so very aggressive, it is hard to understand; at times, over aggressive. His captaincy has resembled his mentality while batting. There have been a couple of instances this World Cup that have shown the positive intent that McCullum has had.

When New Zealand bundled out England in their 2nd game, McCullum and co. came and drubbed the English bowlers. So aggressive was the attitude that it hit the English psychology tremendously. I am certain that game had some serious repercussions & damaged the England team much more than what happened against Australia. It is not so much that they lost than the way they lost that hurt them.

Another instance was during the game against Australia. Clearly, that was New Zealand’s biggest test. We all know Daniel Vettori in the latter half of his career never wanted to bowl in the power plays but after a quick start from Aaron Finch and David Warner, McCullum brought Vettori on & that set the ball rolling for the Kiwis.

Right through this tournament, we have seen Brendon set an 8-2 field or put in a couple of short legs, 2 behind square and ruffle batsmen. He has used Trent Boult and Tim Southee brilliantly, not always saving them for the fag end of the innings but to pick up wickets early on in the piece to wrestle home the initiative.

Brendon McCullum has been a phenomenal leader and New Zealand will be hoping he can keep going the same way for the next couple of games at the least.

New Zealand’s Bowlers

Ah, what do you say about the New Zealand bowlers; they have been a joy to watch this World Cup. With the likes of Australia’s Mitchell Johnson, Mitch Starc, Pat Cummins & Pakistan’s sensational Wahab Riaz intimidating with pace & bounce, the Kiwi’s duo of Tim Southee & Trent Boult have shown us the art of swing and movement. It really has made for fascinating viewing.

Amongst all the 400 scores, thicker bat splices & fielding restrictions, it is heartening to see these bowlers find their own in what is now a bat dominated game. Throw in Dan Vettori in the mix who finds himself in a purple match on his return to International cricket. Here are New Zealand’s champion bowlers and what they have done respectively this World Cup:

1. Trent Boult

New Zealand’s left arm pace sensation has been their best bowler this World Cup. Yes, better than Southee. In fact, he has been one of the two bowlers of the World Cup. He has been consistent with line and length and has got the ball to swing back in on a consistent basis. Boult is also that kind of bowler who hits the bat; his pace is deceptive and he has hit the mid 140s on a regular basis. Shane Bond has mentioned as Boult gets bigger and stronger he is bound to gain more pace.

Trent Boult has been particularly impressive against Australia and West Indies where he got a 5 for and 4 for respectively. Here are his numbers this World Cup:

Innings Wickets Economy Rate Strike Rate 4 + Wickets
7 19 4.21 20.8 2

Currently, Trent Boult is the leading wicket taker of the tournament. Hashim Amla has always had his issues with left arm over the wicket and if Boult can get the ball to dip in like he has all through the World Cup, the Kiwis could easily make early in roads. On a fresh Auckland wicket, Boult vs the recently invigorated Quinton de Kock should make for splendid cricket.

2. Tim Southee

Tim Southee set the World Cup alight with his magnificent display of swing bowling against Engalnd in New Zealand’s third match of the World Cup. Southee may be a yard slower than Boult but the combination of one swinging the ball away from the left hander and Southee away from the right hander. Tim Southee has been a sort of veteran in this New Zealand side despite being only 25. He is another product of that famous U-19 World Cup in Malaysia which also featured the likes of Wayne Parnell, Mitchell Marsh & more prominently, Virat Kohli. Southee was man of the series in that tournament. That tournament also featured former Australian cricketer, Phillip Hughes.

If Southee can repeat the ball he dismissed Moeen Ali with to Quinton de Kock, the Proteas could be a couple down for nothing. Here is what he has done this World Cup:

Innings Wickets Economy Rate Strike Rate 4 + Wickets
7 15 5.50 23.46 1

New Zealand will be hoping the Southee vs England shows up in tomorrow’s semi final encounter.

3. Daniel Vettori

Dan the man Vettori has had a sensational comeback to International Cricket. From jogging miles and miles, to losing 8 kgs, to taking one handed catches, Daniel Vettori has been in the thick of things in the last few weeks. As an icing of the cake, he is the joint highest wicket taker as far as spinners are concerned.

Vettori is not the same bowler he was, but he is cleverer than he has ever been. He is definitely not spinning the ball as much as he used to, but his use of crease, variations of pace and guile have caught many a batsmen wanting. It was his spell against Australia that shifted the momentum back towards New Zealand before Trent Boult came in and cleaned things up. Daniel Vettori has played his role to perfection, dried things up, built up pressure and then gotten wickets; as opposed to bowling beauties, beating the batsmen all ends up and getting them out.

Here is what his returns have been this World Cup:

Innings Wickets Economy Rate Strike Rate 4 + Wickets
7 15 3.81 15.73 1

His numbers are staggering. They tell you the story. Winning the World Cup would be the perfect end for Daniel Vettori’s career; but then again, it begs the question; Why was this man away from International cricket this long?

Brendon McCullum’s Batting

Well, we have spoken about Brendon McCullum the captain, but what about McCullum the batsman? Right until the quarter final game against West Indies, Martin Guptillll was still a little hit and miss this tournament. He was still trying to find his feet; and right through that time, Brendon McCullum was setting the tone for the Kiwis up front. His knock against England showed the World what New Zealand were shooting for.

Just a few weeks before the World Cup, the world was dazzled with the talent of AB de Villiers and his ball striking ability when he raced to the fastest 100 against the West Indies. Here was Brendon McCullum in a World Cup encounter, chasing a score of close to 130 motoring along towards the record. He was nearly striking at 400 at one point in that game before he was dismissed for 77. Despite that being New Zealand’s third game of the tournament, it put fear into opposition attacks watching. A week or so later, Mitchell Johnson bore the brunt of McCullum’s onslaught.

Here’s what Brendon McCullum has done with the bat this World Cup:

Innings No. of Runs Average Strike Rate 50+ Scores
7 269 38.42 185.51 3

Now look at that number in the 4th column. Brendon McCullum has been very sure of what his role is. He has been providing brisk starts very consistently and has the best strike rate in the World Cup for a batsman who has scored over 200 runs. Yeah, he’s topped Glen Maxwell too, not by too much though. Maxwell’s striking at 183 at the moment.

If McCullum can unsettle the likes of Steyn and Morkel early in the piece, New Zealand could just run away with the game very quickly.

Fielding We spoke about how good the South African fielding unit were; but, as I mentioned earlier, New Zealand are by far the best fielding side in the tournament. Just look at this line up of fielders and then you can ogling maybe.

- Brendon McCullum
- Martin Guptill
- Kane Williamson
- Grant Elliott
- Trent Boult
- Corey Anderson

And well what the hell, you can put Daniel Vettori in the ranks too after that blinder he caught of Marlon Samuels in the Quarter final game. Luke Ronchi is one of the more athletic wicket keepers doing the rounds and Ross Taylor is safe as houses in the slips. Every individual in this New Zealand team are unbelievable in the field. It is terrific to see them throwing themselves out in the field and raising standards that even the Australians are finding hard to match.

You know you are one of the better fielding sides in the World Cup when Australia aren’t mentioned but you are.

Weaknesses

Grant Elliott Perhaps the only chink in New Zealand’s armour has been Grant Elliott. Elliott looked horrendous the way he played Mitchell Starc’s inswinging delivery. It wasn’t a yorker but the lack of feet movement, the space between bat and pad, just made for terrible viewing off an international cricketer. Elliott has not done too much of note this World Cup with bat or ball and has been pretty paltry as far as the Kiwis are concerned. If there comes a crunch situation, NZ will be hoping he can bring his best to the fort and put in a solid performance.

Here is what his performances have been like through this World Cup:

Batting

Innings No. of Runs Average Strike Rate 50+ Scores
6 143 23.83 102.87 -

Bowling

Innings Wickets Economy Rate Strike Rate 4 + Wickets
4 2 8.42 21 -

You cannot help but feel sorry for Elliott who is in the fag end of his career and this World Cup should be his last outing but it is great for him that he is part of a winning unit.

Conclusion So that is that on New Zealand. They have very little to worry about apart from pressure. Most teams have great players that are driving them forward, the Kiwis have form. They are clearly the best in form team of the tournament and have a momentum going for them like none other. They will be hoping that their middle order allrounders, in, Grant Elliott & Corey Anderson chip in, but apart from that, they are looking really really good and start off as slight favourites leading into tomorrow’s World Cup encounter.

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