ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / News
New Zealand v South Africa, World Cup 2011, Mirpur
Top-order batting key - Vettori
March 24, 2011
What holds the greater weight of argument: that New Zealand do well enough to even have a side that, for the most part, plays consistently competitive cricket despite an entire population that is a third of Dhaka's alone? Or, that given the quality of players they have produced, they are actually underachieving? Stuck somewhere between those two questions, it never seems to have been any other way for them.
Here they are in the knock-out stages of yet another World Cup. Five times they have made it to the semis but never any further, beaten, on occasions, by a better side and on other occasions by themselves. With this side those questions have been most resonant. If they lose to South Africa on Friday in Dhaka, it won't be a surprise. If they win, it will be an upset, but a real surprise, or a shock? Not really. In any case, the attention will fall on South Africa.
There is no question New Zealand have players here who can change games. In their batting order are some of the cleanest, sweetest ball-hitters in world cricket; Martin Guptill's straight driving has been one of the pleasures of the group stages. Jesse Ryder, Brendon McCullum, Ross Taylor, Scott Styris and Jacob Oram should always be a threat.
Few fast bowlers as initially unsuited to these conditions can have progressed so much individually as Tim Southee, the influence of Allan Donald as bowling coach quite apparent. Southee is probably the least noticed fast bowling success of the tournament. Others have chipped in around him.
They now have back their captain, one of the best allrounders in the game and a figure with the authority and stability most captains dream of. The majority of them field as electrically as eels.
And still it has been a campaign befitting them so far, unwilling to resolve those basic questions. They were awesome against Pakistan, obviously with the bat, but also in the field. The minnows were dispatched with greater comfort than some other teams were able to manage. But losses to Australia and Sri Lanka were so complete that there looked nothing of the true contenders about them.
In a way they have swung as much as Pakistan do, and more than this England team. Sometimes they remind you of Mark Greatbatch's withering assessment late last year that some of the players think they are better than they actually are. And there remains around them talk of player power, which never has beneficial consequences.
It is the batting on which the heaviest burden rests, for that is where expectations should be highest. The numbers of Taylor, McCullum and Guptill stand up well from the group stages - they've all got over 220 runs and average 81.66, 59.75 and 55.5 respectively - but in only one big game can it be said to have come together the way they want it to.
"We played our best game against Pakistan when the batting fired when we got a guy get through to a hundred, with a couple of crucial partnerships through it," Daniel Vettori said. "We've been at our worst when those things haven't happened. That will be the key to our success.
"If the top five perform it will give us a chance. We've got a very good fielding unit and a solid bowling attack so if we can complement that with a good performance with the bat we will be in with a chance. "
It is the potential of that top order that New Zealand are waiting on, that might take them from where they are stuck, to a different plane altogether. There isn't frustration at them not having done more so far, Vettori said, but expectation.
"It's not so much the frustration as much as looking forward to the next game and realizing these guys can do it," he said. "They are extremely talented and if you look at their records, as they stand alone, they are pretty good. What better time to rectify a couple of tough performances than now? We've seen the game plan that works against Pakistan, able to build a total and be able to unleash at the end. If we get a guy like Taylor, Styris or Oram in those last ten overs with wickets in hand, then we know we can be dangerous."
Friday would be a good time for them not simply to know that they can be dangerous, but to actually be so. Else the status quo remains.
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