Southee savours the 'good days' of swing

Tim Southee's 7-33 routed England for 123 Getty Images

It has been a World Cup of two halves. Runs have flowed across both host nations, but there has been a far better balance to the contests in New Zealand.

The average first-innings totals highlight the disparity: 314 in Australia and 260 in New Zealand*. Back-to-back scores of 400 have added to the bloated feeling across the Tasman; the highest innings total in New Zealand is 339, shared by South Africa and Pakistan.

The reasons are plentiful, and much debated, but the day matches in New Zealand have helped energise the bowlers as against the complete day-night schedule in Australia. In general, too, pitches are less homogenised where even though drop-in surfaces are used in Auckland and Wellington there remain high-quality traditional strips in venues such as Dunedin, Nelson and Christchurch.

However, there is also one far more human factor that has brought the totals down from Eden Park to University Oval: the New Zealand bowling attack. They have not conceded more than 233 and their opponents' innings in the last three matches have been 142, 123 and 151. There has been some poor batting, but also some outstanding bowling.

Three New Zealand bowlers - Tim Southee, Trent Boult and, to offer something for the spinners, Daniel Vettori - are among the top-ten wicket-takers*. For a short while against Australia it appeared they would be the only three required. The quicks have been thrilled with the help on offer, although slightly surprised.

"Whether it's the overhead conditions or the balls are staying in reasonable condition, I'm can't put my finger on it," Southee said. "The white ball hasn't swung for a long time but we've managed to get it swinging when it's 15 overs old. But there will be times when it doesn't swing so we'll need to find other ways to get wickets."

Their success has been key to New Zealand's turbo-charged start to the tournament, but the flip side is that they have not been required to exert themselves in the death overs - which are now accepted as beginning at the 35th. New Zealand's last three stints in the field have been 36.2, 33.2 and 32.2 overs.

For all their excellence, it is inconceivable to think the late-overs challenge will not emerge at some stage over the last three-and-a-half weeks of the tournament. It may not come against Afghanistan or Bangladesh in the two remaining group matches, but it would serve New Zealand well if it did. Five weeks of qualifying matches without having to nail the closing stages of an innings would be risky heading into a quarter-final.

"We've all been in that situation before, pressure situations at the death. It's nothing new to us," Southee said. "We are familiar with the grounds, they are smaller, and sides will look to attack. Although we haven't come against that yet we've played a lot of cricket and the guys will step up when the occasion arises."

There are now a myriad of theories as to the best ploy for the closing overs against batsmen who, as Glenn Maxwell showed against Afghanistan and AB de Villiers against West Indies, can score 360 degrees around the wicket with an extraordinary array of flicks, switches, dabs, scoops and sweeps. Southee, though, believes there remains room for an old faithful.

"I think we are seeing fewer yorkers now with four men out, it's harder to defend. But I'm a big believer that you still need to be able to bowl it. If you do execute a yorker it's hard to hit whoever you are. We still practice the yorker a lot and you will see it when we are under pressure. We are comfortable with it."

He also had a typically bowler's view when asked if scores of 400 were good for the game. "No," he said with a hint of a laugh. "I guess it's more exciting for people watching. It's tough as a bowler but you just have to adapt. It's about mindset, there will be days when you are taken down. Enjoy the good days."

For New Zealand's attack there are more good days than bad at the moment.

*Statistics as of March 5, before Bangladesh v Scotland