Ten New Zealand players came out to bat in the semi-final against Bangladesh. Nine of them combined to score 122 runs in 218 deliveries at a strike rate of 55.96. The tenth, Beckham Wheeler-Greenall, scored 75 at a strike rate of 90.36.
It seemed like Wheeler-Greenall was batting on a different surface than the rest of his team-mates. While the rest of the New Zealand top order struggled to find the gaps against Bangladesh's varied and effective bowling attack, Wheeler-Greenall continued to drag New Zealand out of the quicksand they were apparently sinking in.
When he walked in to bat after 25.4 overs, New Zealand were at 75 for 4, struggling to even score at three runs per over. It seemed he had a plan, to take the team through the 50 overs. At some point, the runs would come, and they did in the final ten when the team scored at a run rate of more than seven. The way he paced his innings, is what makes him one to watch out for in the future.
He took his time at the start. Facing two quality spinners from both ends, he scored only two runs in his first 11 deliveries. He let himself settle in. But as soon as he took strike in the 29th over, he smashed the left-arm spinner, Rakibul Hasan, for consecutive boundaries.
Nicholas Lidstone and Wheeler-Greenall added 65 for the fifth wicket, but when the former fell, the New Zealand innings still had 56 balls remaining. When the wicketkeeper Quinn Sunde fell for 1, leaving Wheeler-Greenall with only the tailenders to play with, they had 50 balls left. In those 50 balls, New Zealand made 69.
Trusting his skills, he ramped the Bangladesh quick Tanzim Hasan Sakib for a six over fine leg in the 43rd over to begin his charge. He then thumped two fours off left-arm spinner Hasan Murad in the 44th to reach his second fifty of the tournament. It looked like New Zealand's push for a 200-plus total had begun, but another couple of wickets left them with the very real prospect of being all out without lasting the 50 overs. So Wheeler-Greenall reined himself in once more, knocking the ball around till the end of the 49th over. With six balls left and two wickets still in hand, he unleashed his strokes, clattering 10 runs off the first two legal deliveries of the final over to take New Zealand past 200. A couple of scampered byes in the last three balls of the innings helped New Zealand finish on 211 for 8.
This, however, wasn't the first time Wheeler-Greenall has held New Zealand's batting together. In the must-win game against Sri Lanka earlier in the tournament, it was his 111-ball 80 that had taken New Zealand close to the rather stiff target of 243. He had very nearly taken the team home too, but a search for a quick single had him run-out in the 49th over. That day, his team-mate Kristian Clarke's two-ball six had saved New Zealand the blushes as they won in the final over, and on Thursday, he hoped to do the same. While his efforts could not take his team through to the final, it at least ensured the much-awaited semi-final wasn't a damp squib and that his team could leave the field with their heads held high despite their six-wicket defeat.
Before he became a serious cricketer in consideration for a spot in the New Zealand Under-19 side, Wheeler-Greenall used to play football regularly in the winter months as three members of his family have played club football for Otago United. It's not surprising that he gets his first name from former England football captain David Beckham.
One of Beckham's most famous goals is from the halfway line against Wimbledon. Wheeler-Greenall's most memorable moment from the football pitch, too, is a half-line goal he scored for his Dunedin-based high school during the quarter-final of the country's youth championships. For New Zealand, Wheeler-Greenall wears jersey No. 23. Beckham had the same digits at Real Madrid and LA Galaxy.
After this tournament, Wheeler-Greenall will go back to schools cricket, and a first-class debut is still relatively far away in the pipeline for the 17-year-old. But one thing has been proven. If Beckham could bend it, Wheeler-Greenall has shown he can mend it.