New Zealand set out to score 197 runs in 16 overs as their first goal against Canada at the World Cup match in Benoni today, but the pressure was too much and they had to settle for a five-wicket win after 23 overs.
Benoni was witness to some outstanding hitting during the 70 overs on offer in the match as the game had a match average of 5.61 runs per over, of which New Zealand, in the 23 overs they took to achieve their goal, scored at a rate of 8.56.
That meant New Zealand finished the preliminary round of the tournament with 16 points and a net run rate of 0.990. Whether that was sufficient to allow it to qualify for the Super Six was to be decided by the outcome of the South Africa/Sri Lanka match, a day-nighter due to finish this morning.
New Zealand's hopes of embarrassing Canada were stymied by another outstanding innings from transplanted Australian John Davison who leaves the tournament with the fastest century in World Cup cricket, scored against the West Indies, and the third fastest half-century, scored today off 25 balls.
He had an outstanding tournament and it was only when the New Zealand slow bowlers Daniel Vettori and Chris Harris were brought into the attack that he was tamed. He was tied down and the starvation diet took its effect when he attempted to hit Harris out of the ground.
Unable to get as much speed onto the ball as had been the case off the fast-medium New Zealand attack, he got under the ball and Chris Cairns at long on was able to take a comfortable catch just inside the boundary to end his innings on 75 off 62 balls. He hit four sixes and nine fours in his innings.
Andre Adams and Jacob Oram came in for the treatment from him, their first spells ending in none for 31 off three overs for Adams and one for 23 off Oram's first two overs, with three sixes having been hit off his second by Davison, the last of them a superb shot which cleared the grandstand and mid-wicket and ended up outside the ground.
Once he departed, however, the scoring rate faltered and at 129 for six wickets it looked all over for Canada. But skipper Joseph Harris hit 26 before he got a brute of a ball from fast bowler Shane Bond and it was only in his quest for self defence as the ball rose on him that he got his hand in the way of the ball when holding the bat at head height. Wicket-keeper Brendon McCullum pulled in a fine catch.
For some reason, both Oram, who was badly affected by cramp in conceding seven wides in the latter stage of the innings, and Adams persisted in bowling short balls to the tail-enders and this allowed 20 runs to be scored for the ninth wicket and 23 for the 10th.
Bond troubled all the batsmen he faced and took three for 29 while Oram had four for 52 from his 10.
Davison said the batting conditions in South Africa were similar to those he had been used to when playing in one-day cricket in Australia and that had been to his advantage.
He did say that he was pleased he hadn't been facing Bond but he generally worked on the principle of working to a plan of looking at the bowler's field in an attempt to understand where he was likely to bowl to him. And on the good batting wickets he was able to back himself that he had made the right choice.
While he had been tried opening the batting once or twice before, it was as the result of a team meeting that he was placed in the position this time around.
Davison acknowledged the impact of Vettori and Harris in slowing his run scoring.
"They bowled really well and it was a lot harder with the 'keeper up to the stumps and harder to go down the wicket to them," he said.
Kiwi captain Stephen Fleming said New Zealand had several strategies to work on depending on how many wickets they lost with the 16-over version being the first choice.
That became impossible with a poor start which saw him run out for five when sent back by Craig McMillan, Nathan Astle stumped for 11 and McMillan caught off a skier for 14.
Then Cairns and Adams restored the situation by adding 65 runs so that when Adams was out for 36 in the 11th over, New Zealand were already 97 for four.
Cairns was out for 31 when the score was at 114 for five when turning a soft shot to mid-wicket to be Davison's third wicket. The all-rounder had opened the bowling with his off-spinners and was immediately a problem. He went on to bowl out his 10 overs to finish with three for 61.
But Scott Styris and Harris took control of the situation by calmly working the ball around, occasionally finding the boundary. Harris became the fourth New Zealander after Astle, Fleming and Martin Crowe to score 4000 runs in One-Day Internationals.
But they brought up their 50-partnership off 44 balls and once that was achieved the run down to the finish came within four overs as Styris raced to his fourth ODI half-century off 37 balls to be 54 not out at the end while Harris was 38 not out.
It was helter-skelter cricket at times, but a reminder of the batting depth New Zealand has developed and which it dearly wants to put to use in the next phase of the tournament. But that fate is out of their hands.
Fleming admitted his side had a nervous evening in front of them while they awaited the result of the Sri Lanka/South Africa match. Canada had played well against them and had put them under a lot of pressure.
"I'm pretty happy, we did all we could with the bat," he said. The side had trusted their lower order, despite their lack of opportunities in the tournament and they had come through well.