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New Zealand’s struggling batsmen have to up their game against England

New Zealand’s struggling batsmen have to up their game against England
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Gaza Post- New Zealand

New Zealand, six matches into their World Cup campaign, were undefeated. A washout with India may have helped their cause somewhat but a coveted semi‑final place seemed assured. How quickly prospects have dimmed. Successive defeats by Pakistan and Australia leave New Zealand facing what could prove a sudden-death showdown with England on Wednesday.

Grasp your Pimm’s tightly, the finals have come early. England arrive in Durham buoyed by their morale-reviving, potentially tournament-saving, 31-run win over India at Edgbaston but still require victory to guarantee progression to the knockouts.

New Zealand, for all their emerging cracks and tail-spinning form, sit a point ahead in a slightly more favourable position. A third defeat running would, however, consign them to an anxious wait, with Pakistan able to draw level and possibly knock Kane Williamson’s men out on superior net run rate.

 

Bangladesh cannot be discounted either, although they would need to defeat India and Pakistan and hope New Zealand fall to England.

How did New Zealand end up here? To this point their World Cup can best be described as flattering to deceive. There have been bright moments, sure, but conservative tactics and a lack of conviction cast doubts over their credentials among the tournament’s true contenders.

After a dream start of dominant victories against Sri Lanka and Afghanistan nervy wins against Bangladesh, South Africa and West Indies all had dramatic climaxes that could easily have swung the other way. Much tougher tests were always slated for the back end.

Four years ago when New Zealand were World Cup bridesmaids at the Melbourne Cricket Ground they got there by embracing a fearless attacking approach, led at the top by Brendon McCullum and the steadfast belief that nothing was beyond them.

 

This time around they have been largely risk averse. Bowling has carried them. With an intimidating blend of short-pitch fireballs and lethal toe missiles, Lockie Ferguson has fast become their World Cup tormentor. At Lord’s last Saturday Ferguson removed David Warner and Steve Smith in seven deliveries to boost his tournament haul to 17 wickets, second only to Mitchell Starc. Trent Boult also claimed New Zealand’s first World Cup hat-trick, with three pitch-perfect yorkers.

 

The batsmen, though, have consistently crumbled. With McCullum swapping the bat for the microphone New Zealand have been much less swashbuckling and forced to play it safe because their openers have, on the whole, failed to lay platforms.

 

Martin Guptill sent West Indies to all parts of Wellington on his way to a record 237 from 163 balls in the 2015 World Cup quarter-final. His average at this World Cup is 26.3, skewed by 73 not out in the opening match against Sri Lanka, illustrating New Zealand’s crippling reliance on Williamson and Ross Taylor to dig in and bail them out.

Source: The Guardian

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