New Zealand v Sri Lanka, Super Eights, Grenada April 13, 2007

It could all come down to run-rates: Fleming

AFP



Stephen Fleming has run-rates on his mind © Getty Images

Stephen Fleming feels that any World Cup captain who doesn't think about run-rates is "dumb". Fleming was forced to defend his tactics after a six-wicket Super Eights defeat to Sri Lanka in Grenada ended New Zealand's unbeaten spree.

"It's a fine line. You could lose 30 or 40 runs just like that in a tight game and that's going to affect the run-rate massively down the track," he said after the match. You're dumb if you don't [worry about the net run-rate]. As a captain you've got to look at all scenarios but by no means was there a question of giving the game up."

Fleming delayed taking Powerplays fearing that, if the field were up, Sri Lanka would sprint to a win that would adversely affect New Zealand's net run-rate - the first tie breaker for semi-final qualification if teams are level on points. "I wasn't willing to take the ten overs of Powerplay and lose the game in the 38th over when you could stretch it out for another eight overs," he said.

Sri Lanka's win helped them draw level on eight points with reigning champions Australia as well as New Zealand. Australia, who have played four games to their nearest rivals' five, top the table with a net run-rate of +1.51, Sri Lanka second with +1.35 and New Zealand narrowly behind on +1.27.

Fleming, whose side need at least one more win from their two remaining second phase games against fourth-placed South Africa on Saturday and Australia a week Friday, to be sure of a semi-final place, said: "The first 20 overs [of Sri Lanka's innings] we fumbled our way through when we needed a great start. From then on it was a fine balance between trying to put pressure on them and look after our run-rate. We were so far out of the game when they were one down. If we'd taken one more wicket we could have really squeezed."

Defeat for New Zealand, against a Sri Lanka side missing the injured Lasith Malinga, ended their chances to equal their 2004 record of ten straight one-day internationals wins. "It was a poor performance," said Fleming who was lbw to Chaminda Vaas for 0 for the fourth successive time. "The whole way through, particularly in our batting, they stunted any momentum we had. Scotty had a very good day, we just didn't support him. A contributing factor is that we haven't been put under the pump thus far. They fielded very well and they've got the most unorthodox attack, the toughest bowling attack in the world at the moment."

Looking ahead, Fleming, 34, said he didn't expect such a complicated challenge from South Africa. "They are more orthodox with a pace attack, predominately. But they are incredibly competent in what they do."