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March 29, 2007
Stephen Fleming believes New Zealand have one foot in the semi-finals after overwhelming a lacklustre West Indies by seven wickets. "We think so," Fleming said when asked about his team's probable qualification. "We've got a couple of tricky encounters coming up. We tripped up against Bangladesh in the warm-ups and Ireland have tested Pakistan, but if we continue the way we are, we're not far away.
"The exciting thing is every side you tick off, you're one place closer to the semi-finals. Ideally we're looking at ten points [five wins], eight would be close and could create a log-jam. Part of the reason we put our foot down today was that run-rates could be close. We wanted to finish the game quickly, after we'd got into a position where we felt we couldn't lose it."
After a week in which New Zealand suffered yet more injury set-backs, with the loss of Lou Vincent to a wrist injury and Ross Taylor to a hamstring strain, Fleming said it was the success of his two allrounders, Scott Styris and Jacob Oram, that had made the difference. "Jacob's batting has been outstanding since his return, but his bowling today was a big difference," Fleming said after Oram grabbed three big wickets in the middle part of West Indies' innings. "To be able to generate extra bounce on these wickets is a big bonus.
"Styris is playing really well with bat and ball. He has a great World Cup record, and he's starting this one as he finished the last. It's great with our all-round options. They cover so many bases and pitch conditions, and they give us batting strength as well. I believe that's the strength of our side."
Fleming also praised the contribution of his wicketkeeper, Brendon McCullum, who took four catches including a brilliant inside-edge off Ramnaresh Sarwan. "It's the little things he's doing, not just the catches," Fleming said. "His work off the ball and the energies he's producing are very important to the side, especially since losing Lou, who's our key fielder. He stepped up today and some of those catches were crucial and very talented.
"We've looked at pretty much every scenario and some of them twice. It's been a tough week losing Lou and Ross, but we've been able to fall back on decent players who've played quite a bit of cricket. That's a settling influence on the side. We got through the week okay, whereas in the past we'd have been upset by that."
Oram was very pleased to be back among the wickets after a period in which he had been New Zealand's key middle-order batsman. "It rounds off what I do in the team," he said. "I feel like I've been playing with half my skills since coming back in Australia. I couldn't be happier with my batting, but I've put in a lot of hard yards in the nets, and I like to think it's paid off."
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