ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / News

New Zealand v South Africa, World Cup 2011, Mirpur

Top-order batting key - Vettori

Osman Samiuddin

March 24, 2011

Comments: 10 | Text size: A | A

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.

Ross Taylor smashes one to the off side during his century, New Zealand v Pakistan, Group A, World Cup, Pallekele, March 8, 2011
Daniel Vettori will be hoping the likes of Ross Taylor will come good against South Africa © Associated Press

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.

Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of ESPNcricinfo

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Comments: 10 
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Posted by Koro on (March 26, 2011, 10:33 GMT)

KURUWITA you are correct one sided it was but not SA Ha Ha Ha

Posted by Lalith on (March 25, 2011, 11:11 GMT)

@cricketlord2011, This black Caps team is the worst for 20 years. Previous teams were much stronger than the current one. So the match will be a one-sided one.

Posted by Andy on (March 25, 2011, 3:30 GMT)

Go the Blackcaps! You can do it!

Posted by Tom on (March 25, 2011, 3:20 GMT)

A very good article. Insightful and interesting. Thank you

Posted by David on (March 24, 2011, 23:43 GMT)

Everyone has written NZ off. After the Pak WI game on Wed the sky commentary team spend a good 1/2 hr on Aus India & plenty of time on Eng Sl but the NZ SA game was ignored. And agina tonight it got 10 seconds of review with the analysis team basically laughing at NZ. Well, we may be the underdogs but write us off at your peril. We beat SA in 2003 and 2007, Aus in 99 and make the semis pretty regularly. We may not and may never win the final, but we sure as heck can upset other major teams chances. Go Macca, go Rosco, Guptill to strike it cleanly and Southee to knock over the top 3. See you in the semi England!

Posted by Sam on (March 24, 2011, 21:33 GMT)

Well written Osman. Certainly New Zealand have a lot of potential at the moment, but interestingly, it appears, now it is the 'grit' that is lacking.

Previous NZ sides have pefromed better with probably less 'talent' and somewhere we have lost our way a little - perhaps as the likes of Ryder, Guptill and Taylor mature more, pick their shots a little better, things will look better.

And our frailties against top quality spin...

The other thing to remember is cricket is not the number one sport in New Zealand and often the general public appear to have expectations more akin to the mighty All Blacks on our cricketers and everytime they lose to a cricketing super power like India and Australia they are branded a bunch of losers!

Fingers corssed our top order clicks, then some great fielding and discaplined bowling could choke South Africa again!

Posted by chris on (March 24, 2011, 20:39 GMT)


NZ beats SA England beats Sri Lanka

Pakistan beats India (semi 1) NZ beats England (semi 2)

NZ beats Pakistan in World Cup boil over, and becomes new World Champions. You heard it here first people!

Posted by Allrounder on (March 24, 2011, 19:14 GMT)

Vettori's return will certainly give the boost to the Kiwis and their batting runs pretty deep until no8. with Smith out of form and AB returning from injury, should Amla or Kallis fall cheaply, then the Kiwis are in with a real chance.

Posted by Ashish on (March 24, 2011, 18:19 GMT)

I guess the key for this game will be the side having better spin attack and better batsman of spin bowling on slow turning tracks in Bangladesh. South Africa having combination of good spinners and world class batsman have better chances but NewZealand have shown instances of stepping up bigtime on crucial games.

Posted by Paul on (March 24, 2011, 15:20 GMT)

Think they have a chance, every team does, but my heart knows SA will win

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Osman SamiuddinClose
Osman Samiuddin Osman spent the first half of his life pretending he discovered reverse swing with a tennis ball half-covered with electrical tape. The second half of his life was spent trying, and failing, to find spiritual fulfillment in the world of Pakistani advertising and marketing. The third half of his life will be devoted to convincing people that he did discover reverse swing. And occasionally writing about cricket. And learning mathematics.
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