<
>

Familiarity works to New Zealand's advantage

Jesse Ryder stands and delivers Associated Press

When New Zealand put up 300-plus batting first, they do not lose. Today's 315 was the 18th time they had done so and duly they came away with their 18th such win. After a disappointing start against South Africa, and indifferent recent form, their win in this most open tournament means a semi-final spot is in their own hands. Win against England and they will go through.

Top-order contributions were the key, Jesse Ryder and Brendon McCullum providing the start and Martin Guptill ensuring that they capitalized on it towards the end. "It's a crucial win for us, it's kept us alive in the tournament and that's the most important bit," said Daniel Vettori, Man of the Match for a smart 48 and two important wickets.

"But the manner of the win is something that is pleasing to ourselves and also to our fans back home," he added. "We managed to put together a really good score thanks to the way our top three batted and how we finished off also. That's what we've been working hard to do and to do it in a crucial game is very pleasing."

Ryder's propulsion was the ideal platform for others to build on, but at one point, having collapsed from 125 no loss to 161 for 5 in just over ten mid-innings overs, the work was again on the verge of being squandered. Martin Guptill stood firm, however, and with Vettori's help in a 69-run stand, revived the innings to such an extent that they very nearly doubled the 30-over score.

"It was a pretty crucial partnership in the end, particularly for Martin showing that composure," said Vettori. "He's new to his international career with wickets falling round him and he managed to hold it together and got momentum going our way and just to finish it as strongly as we did with James Franklin and Kyle Mills and Martin. We had all that momentum heading into the bowling innings and it can make such a difference to a team when you finish so strongly."

The Wanderers surfaces have generally been the spicier ones, though today's track was different to the one on which Australia and West Indies played yesterday, where there was significant bounce and deviation. There was a little this morning too, which prompted Kumar Sangakkara to put New Zealand in.

"I wasn't surprised [at being put in]," said Vettori. "The previous games here it looked difficult early on but certainly settled down after. It wasn't as difficult as we imagined. The two openers said it had pace but not the deviation of the Australia West Indies game. In the end it was just a good cricket wicket."

Both sides are familiar with each other and New Zealand have only just finished a long tour of Sri Lanka. That helped, particularly with facing bowlers such as Ajantha Mendis and Lasith Malinga, who have proved particularly difficult for opponents facing them for the first time. Familiarity leaked runs; New Zealand took 134 from their 19 overs combined, for just one wicket.

"There are no mysteries for us when it comes to Sri Lanka now, because we've played them so much. They're still a good team and have very good bowling," said Vettori, "but when you've faced Mendis a bit and you know what he's doing it's not so difficult. The same with Malinga but they are still quality bowlers."

New Zealand left it a little tighter than they would have liked, however, especially given that run-rates may yet feature heavily in this group. Though their groundwork was solid, they dropped four catches, including Mahela Jayawardene and Sangakkara. "When you have Dilshan and Jayasuriya, Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene in the top four you are weary of the skills that they have and the way that they started, particularly Dilshan, makes you fret a bit. But we kept picking up wickets at crucial times and even Mahela at the end was a crucial wicket. We maintained the pressure and were on top most of the time but just couldn't kill it off.

"Our catching was very poor but our fielding was outstanding. You need to rectify that because you cannot afford to give quality guys too many chances."