Stephen Fleming, the New Zealand captain, has said that the Australians are certainly beatable after running them close in a high scorer at Perth yesterday. Australia piled on a massive 343 for 5 and New Zealand made a fight of it, courtesy allrounder Jacob Oram, whose unbeaten 101 went in vain as Australia snuck home by eight runs.
Though Australia have beaten them in 19 out of 21 games, Fleming dwelled on the positives, referring to the instances in the series when Australia were made to sweat. Australia scraped through by two wickets at Sydney last week, chasing 219.
"There is a massive desire to beat them and it is probably born from believing we are not too far away," said Fleming. "Statistically, we are a long way away, something like 21 (losses) and two (wins) or 26 and five, but we think we are pretty close."
Adam Gilchrist agreed that New Zealand are a dangerous side and a force to reckon with in the World Cup in the West Indies. Gilchrist was impressed with New Zealand's performance, despite not playing their strongest side in Perth.
"They are a very dangerous team at full strength," said Gilchrist. "They weren't at full strength yesterday [Shane Bond and James Franklin were rested on Sunday]. They have got Oram back and that gives them a nice balance with bat and ball. They are a dangerous team, there is no doubt about it. They are a team we have to look out for in this competition and teams in the World Cup will have to watch them."
Fleming reflected on the improved showing among his batsmen, with Oram, Craig McMillan and Lou Vincent striking good form immediately on returning to the side. McMillan top-scored with 89 at Sydney while Oram scored 86 against England at Adelaide. Vincent, a last-minute replacement following Nathan Astle's shock retirement, kickstarted New Zealand's chase with a fluent 66.
Gilchrist too concurred with Fleming and attributed their success to the performance of the lower order. Oram and Brendon McCullum, who scored 46, added an unbeaten 137 off just 89 balls for the sixth wicket to keep their side on the hunt.
"Guys like Jacob Oram, Brendon McCullum and even Daniel Vettori, that middle to lower order is an extremely dangerous part of their batting line-up," he added. "They've chased us down before and got close a few times, so we know they can do it.
However, Fleming admitted that New Zealand had paid dearly for their slack performance in the field under the sweltering heat. Matthew Hayden went on to make 117 after Daniel Vettori dropped a sitter at mid-off early in his innings, and a few more fielding lapses let Australia off the hook.
"We are doing plenty of work on the fielding," said Fleming. "It's contrasting performances, good one day bad the next. Daniel has great hands, he hasn't dropped a catch for a long time."