Australia v New Zealand, Champions Trophy, final, Centurion October 4, 2009

New Zealand want one more team performance


If ever in cricket a side has decisively shifted the emphasis from the individual battles that form each contest to the more collaborative jousts that shape the broader battle, it is New Zealand. They've had great individuals to be sure, but more times than not, their triumphs have been built on a number of smaller, lesser celebrated individual wins, especially the modern-day New Zealand. If not always an attractive or thrilling trait, it is an endlessly admirable one.

How on earth have they managed to get to the final of this, the most competitive Champions Trophy? Every game they have played after their opening loss to South Africa they have had to win. Every game since, they have won. Almost every game has wrought some serious toll on their squad, now almost unrecognisable from the one that landed here. And Daniel Vettori aside, they have no player in either the top five run-getters or wicket-takers of the tournament.

But right through their path lie scattered vital contributions here, there and everywhere; Jesse Ryder and the top and lower order against Sri Lanka, Brendon McCullum, Martin Guptill, Shane Bond and Grant Elliott against England, Vettori, Ian Butler, Elliott again against Pakistan. When - and if at all - they hand out medals to the side after this is over, there will be no shortage of men standing tall.

Only the captain has been a man apart, a giant among giants. He has an embedded slacker cool about him, so if you saw him jamming with the early 90s Beck somewhere he wouldn't seem out of place. In a way more stable than it seems, he's been many things over two weeks; brooding, spiky, witty, intelligent and understated. The beard and deep voice adds gravitas, but his performances haven't needed it. He has scored runs when they have needed scoring and his bowling has been so good it's hardly been noticed.

"Basically the reason we have come so far is because we've had team performances," said Vettori, a day before he leads his side out against Australia at Centurion. "The whole time a number of guys have stepped up and allowed us to win. While we may not have had too many stars in the tournament, if you look at every game, we've had six to seven guys step up and really perform."

They will need that and then some in the final. Aura or not, no team is looking as monstrously impressive as Australia currently. Historically and famously, New Zealand have upped their game against Australia but that theory has been ground to dust recently, in fact, turned on its head: in the last five years, Australia have won 18 of 27 games against New Zealand. Vettori knows it.

"We've been poor as of late against them," he said. "We got a 2-2 result in the Chappell-Hadlee series but before that we haven't played as well as we can. Probably we've had a reputation for getting up against them but the results haven't been there. We're hoping we can call on that form from our first two games from that series but we know Australia is a pretty impressive side and they've hovered around that top ranking for a long time."

Other factors will be up against them as well, just in case nobody thought Australia was enough of an obstacle to triumph. They played the second semi-final and so have one day's rest less. Vettori admitted that the win over Pakistan was exhausting. Not having played at Centurion since their opening game could also possibly be a disadvantage. And a bit of the battle will be against the self.

New Zealand have been, for the longest time, honest semi-finalists. This is their first big tournament final since the 2000 Champions Trophy and that was the only other time they made a final in a global event. "I think you have achieved what you set out to achieve but once you reach that level you realise there is immense desire to go all the way," said Vettori. "There's no relief in the camp and after the win last night, it was all about how we are going win tomorrow as opposed to it's great we made it. It's pleasing for me as captain to hear those sentiments and make sure we put it in practice tomorrow."

They will be up against it tomorrow, but they have survived and thrived on that through this tournament. They have done it so long as a cricket nation, it is probably a default setting. But in this tournament, the real surprise would be if there was no surprise at all tomorrow at Centurion.

Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Craig on October 5, 2009, 13:13 GMT

    Beautiful sentiments Gippslander! I, too, am an Aussie and I hate seeing my team lose but would be happy to lose this one for Vettori's sake. Especially now that he has been forced out of the match. Let's just hope that there is a good 1st innings score and a thrilling chase.

  • rob on October 5, 2009, 12:54 GMT

    New Zealand is vastly superier team compared to pakistan. They looked thoroughly professional. Pakistan looked like bunch of amatures. Captain Younak khan is no better, he dropped a dolly. He shouldn't have played whilst carrying injury. New Zealand played without their best batsman Ryder as he was injured. Also why is pakistan only playing 4 genuine batsman. As most pakistan friends agree Afridi and nazir aren't batsmen, they are just brainless sloggers. Akmal as an opener must be the biggest joke of all.

  • rm.kumar on October 5, 2009, 10:38 GMT

    Kewis Win the CT Still my vote goes to NewZealand

  • Sameer on October 5, 2009, 10:19 GMT

    No Chriss crain, No Styris, the current team is totally a new set up compare with earlier winner of the champions trophy. Still my vote goes to NewZealand because of Vettori, he is my man

  • owen on October 5, 2009, 8:44 GMT

    Hilarios what all the Pakistani fans have to say. Just like to say that they were out for a bit of hit and giggle in that game and completely underestimated NZ. On peper we shouldn't have won that game, or really any game, but NZ scrapped well and proved once again that we are better than we look. In saying that Australia should be too strong, but,l you never know! Hope Bond bowls well.

    P.S Just on Rana's batting, Vettori's a bowler too, seems to slightly outskill any of the Pakistani's :P

  • Rajasundram on October 5, 2009, 8:42 GMT

    Come on! The umpire made a mistake and Pakistan lost. Look back at how many times Pakistan had the benefit of the doubt in the early days - remember Shakoor Rana? The umpire (being a human being) made a mistake. Why are people harping on that and not on Younous Khan's dropped catch or not taking the Powerplay as soon as Afridi got in - he would have played havoc when the fielding restrictions were in place and once he got going, Pakistan would have been 320 or so. And then NZ would have no chance Siva from Singapore

  • Shahzad on October 5, 2009, 5:32 GMT

    New Zealand will definately miss the services of their best player in the Semi Final Mr. Simon Taufel :-(

  • Harsh on October 5, 2009, 4:46 GMT

    Seriously, Dan (the Harry Potter - the cricket wizard) deserves to get big title like this. Winning World Cup is very tough, but winning this( mini-world cup) second time will be one of the biggest glory for him. I hope Taylor or Bond clicks tomorrow, they have to otherwise its quite impossible to stop Aussies. I have never seen player like Vettory, so calm and relax but always look dangerous, and make you feel that he is goona take away match from you. You know what i gotta say this Dan is gift to cricket world, i hope world acknowledge him as well. I think they do.

  • sridhar on October 5, 2009, 4:42 GMT

    sridhar wrote Would"nt it be a fairy tale finish for the underdog if New Zealand win today! Australia seem to be playing a lot more consistently in this tournament than they have been for some time now and some of the replacements are starting to kick in . Watson bats very straight and his IPL stint seems to have done his confidence enormous good and Paine too seems to be holding his own. Hussey is batting better than he has done recently and Lee seems good in patches. A lot will depend on Ponting and if New Zealand can hope that the law of averages and Bond will get rid of Ponting early. Both Mills and Bond move the ball and early wickets can always set the cat amongst the pigeons. New Zealand will have to battle injuries, tiredness and the big moment for just one more day if they are to win. Australia should win. They play better in finals, but that is the past only Ponting, Lee and Hussey really ae from the winning past.Maybe the new will find the big occasion too much like Lords!

  • roj on October 5, 2009, 3:08 GMT

    Best of Luck to NZ..i support is balanced..have good bowling and batting resources..easy to beat AUS without m.clarke. Hoping Bond bowls well..if he maintains same form, none can stop nz to win this final...Another interesting nz batsmen to watch TAYLOR..he is emerging to watch his shots..wish Bond or Taylor gets Man of the finals award..:-)

  • No featured comments at the moment.