New Zealand fret over injury list
New Zealand are often described as a team that produce performances worth more than the sum of their parts. However, as their injury list continues to grow they may not be far away from having to send an emergency request for some spares to be found in double quick time. At the rate players are dropping, they will struggle to make an eleven for their next match on Thursday.
As disappointing as the one-run defeat to South Africa was, it is the fact that New Zealand's dressing room is rapidly turning into an A&E department that will be of most concern. It was a blessing that this was a dead game - both teams had qualified and no points get carried to the Super Eights - because Jesse Ryder was ruled out with a groin problem and later hospitalised, and James Franklin was suffering pain in his knee.
If that wasn't bad enough, Ross Taylor pulled up with a hamstring strain mid-way through his innings as he sprinted back for a second run. The way he limped around with a runner wasn't a good sign for New Zealand who play their first Super Eights match against Ireland, at Trent Bridge, in two days. Those new injuries were on top of their injured captain, Daniel Vettori, who has yet to play because of shoulder trouble that has required an injection.
That means that the captaincy is in the hands of Brendon McCullum, who has probably had his fill of leadership after a horrific spell at the IPL with Kolkata Knight Riders as they became the whipping boys of the 2009 tournament. It was therefore a good sign that he could at least retain a sense of humour.
"I'm going get a couple more physios to get round us all," he said when asked how the team would prepare for the next stage. "We'll try and get as many bodies on deck as possible and make sure we get guys as fit as we can so we can make a decision on selection."
Franklin is expected to be available for the Super Eights but Ryder's continued participation in the tournament is in doubt after he was hospitalised overnight as a precautionary measure. The team manager Dave Currie said Ryder was suffering serious discomfort, and medical advice has ruled him out of their first Super Eight clash against Ireland, at Trent Bridge, on Thursday.
Vettori's shoulder treatment is ongoing, although he is likely to return to match fitness soon, while Taylor will be monitored over the next 36 hours. When Taylor pulled up with his injury he was prepared to limp off before the TV replay showed he was in by a couple of inches. He stayed in the middle at the behest of his captain, but McCullum said he was confident the extended innings wouldn't have exacerbated the problem.
"It was my decision actually. A guy like that is capable of hitting the ball at 80% and getting it out of the park," he said. "I wasn't asking him to run too much, it was just a matter of swinging from the hip and if he'd managed to get one or two over the rope that could have been the difference and I certainly didn't think it would cause him too much damage."
That may be a decision that comes back to bite McCullum. If this game had been crucial to the tournament it would have been understandable for Taylor to continue, but with plenty of batting still to come he could have gone off and had an early assessment of the injury. McCullum's desire to keep his best batsman in the middle suggested that, despite the dead rubber, winning was uppermost in his mind.
"Anytime you don't come out of the game with a win you are disappointed," he said. "I thought we bowled and fielded incredibly well, a big improvement from the other day [against Scotland], but I guess our batting was always struggling for momentum throughout the innings and I guess we never quite had that big over.
"It's frustrating from that point of view but I thought there were some big positives as well," he added. "Obviously we have to look at those rather than dwell too much on the negatives because we have a game in a couple of days' time that will be incredibly important to us."
Those positives include miserly spells from Ian Butler and McCullum's brother, Nathan, who quietened South Africa with his offspin. The fielding, too, had some breathtaking moments including Brendon McCullum's flick to remove Jacques Kallis and Martin Guptill's direct hit to dispatch AB de Villiers.
However, South Africa's bowling and fielding was equally impressive, so much so that an asking rate that started at around six-and-a-half was sitting at 12-an-over with three overs remaining. Left-arm spinner Roelef van de Merwe was the stand-out as he claimed 2 for 14, and Graeme Smith was delighted with the stern work-out especially after their walk-over win against Scotland.
"We had a great platform at 47 for none at the end of the sixth, we just lost our way and got a bit tense," he said. "We just got it wrong in that four- or five-over period but it was probably a good thing. We learnt a few lessons, important lessons to learn before we move into the Super Eights.
"I think in terms of the bigger picture it was fantastic for us to have a high-pressure game. Especially from a bowling perspective, to defend a total like that and perform under pressure was great."
Andrew McGlashan is assistant editor of Cricinfo