Dark horses no longer. New Zealand sounded their loudest warning yet as they defeated Sri Lanka by 98 runs on Saturday, confirming their place among the favourites. But though a low-key approach to the knockouts has suited New Zealand at past world events, they have a target painted on their backs this time around, coach Mike Hesson acknowledged.
"I don't think we can fly under the radar," Hesson said. "We've performed well for a while, people have taken note of that. If we keep performing well, we'll get some attention. It's important that we've built up momentum and confidence - that's a big part of being consistent. But as a group we don't get carried away."
Among the hallmarks of New Zealand's style in the past 18 months has been their aggression, with bat, ball and in the field. Brendon McCullum has led by example in that front, memorably hitting his first ball of the tournament for four to launch his innings of 65 off 49 balls. He has also continued to search for wickets with his bowlers, employing close-catchers well into the middle overs, while he uses up overs from his most penetrative bowlers without fear of being exposed later in the innings.
"I think the sides that continue to attack with the ball are the ones that can turn an opposition 350 into 180," Hesson said. "The new rules have taken out that trivial play between 15 and 40 overs. That area of the game has been invigorated, and there are more boundary opportunities. Therefore if you sit back and watch and wait, you can be chasing a big total."
On Saturday, New Zealand hunted for middle-overs wickets with Daniel Vettori, who snared Tillakaratne Dilshan and Mahela Jayawardene, and Adam Milne, who finished with two wickets. Hesson had praise for Milne and said that though there were "sore bodies" in the New Zealand camp, they possessed the bowling resources to cope with potentially unavailable players for Tuesday's match against Scotland.
"Adam's bowling got better as the game went on," he said. "He bowled with some gas and would have got a lot of confidence out of the wickets he picked up at the end."
"But for us Adam and Mitchell McClenaghan do a similar role. They are the first-change bowlers who can keep attacking through those middle overs. Mitch and Adam can also take the new ball if required. Kyle [Mills] has also shown how good he can be in certain conditions as well. It's nice to have five guys that are performing pretty well."
The game against Scotland is expected to be one of New Zealand's most straightforward challenges, in their current form.
"I've stated before that there would be a number of upsets in this tournament. If sides take others lightly, they could get turned over and we'll definitely prepare and scout as best we can with Scotland," he said. "They smashed Ireland and they've put a lot of other sides under pressure. We don't have a heck of a lot of footage, but we do have some good information. We'll prepare as well as for any international."